Monday, October 19, 2009


Why do we get attached to things and people? Despite knowing the fact that practically everything in life is impermanent.

For one, we get attached when we 'invest' in something, emotionally and/or financially, over a period of time.

Long term financial investments result in this attachment, since there is an expectation of return, particularly as the investment often requires us to forego potential alternative consumption at the time. The anticipation of returns from foregone utility creates an attachment.

Emotional investments are a little more complex and subtle to fathom.

For example, we tend to emotionally invest in the things and people we cohabitate with over time. I don't fully understand why this happens, but I have begun to practically notice this behavior in me. I used to think of such things as hocus-pocus, but it is interesting when such things begin to take effect.

One potential (rational?) reason could be, that when we take 'care' of things or when we build relationships with people, we make some form of an emotional investment, and inherently anticipate a future benefit from it - which causes the attachment.

Another variation is attachment to work. Hindu philosophy (to the limited extent I know) propounds this concept called 'nishkarma karma' - to indicate an ideal state of detached 'desireless action'.

But, I am beginning to learn that doing exceptional work requires some measure of attachment. One can do good work, or even great work by remaining detached from the outcomes, but doing 'exceptional' work requires a certain level of passion and dedication - that a detached mind finds hard to muster. In early days in consulting, I was advised that the true hallmark of great consulting lies in emphathizing and taking responsibility for a client's issues like 'they are your own'. Now, how is a detached individual supposed to accomplish that?

Is 'detachment' just an unattainable idealistic conjecture to account for the impermanence of life - for the failures we encounter, for the individuals we must separate from, for the things we must let go - or is there truly a feasible state of detached living?
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