Quote of the Day: Nothing Lasts

 

“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.” — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

 At a rational level, we all know that we will eventually die. But it seems like a far off ending to our lives. The fact is, though, that everything dies. We can’t hold on to anything forever: relationships end, flowers die, cars end up in junkyards, no matter how often we try to save them.

Yet we continue to cling to those things we want to keep: stability in our culture, appreciation of moral values, an intact family—the list is endless. There is nothing wrong with trying to hold on to those things. But suffering comes at some point, not because we lose the people and things in our lives, but because we refuse to let them go, physically and emotionally. As human beings, at some level, we want to keep our friends, families, even our things, and feel betrayed when they disappear into an unknown future.

One of the things we can all do is learn to recognize the paradox of the mysteries of life, the impermanence and the losses, and know that we will suffer through them. But when we also recognize that our unwillingness to let them go—let all of them go—is the actual source of our unhappiness, we move through life with less pain and more joy.

When we learn to accept the pain of loss and also recognize that loss is the natural outcome of life, we suffer much less.

And we are free.

Published in Culture
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There are 39 comments.

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  1. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    I’m speaking, of course, about the material world, which is where we suffer. After we die, we all have our understanding of the destination of the soul.

    • #1
    • May 8, 2019, at 5:58 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Member

    We are all writing in sand.

    • #2
    • May 8, 2019, at 6:02 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Rodin (View Comment):

    We are all writing in sand.

    Indeed. And we can enjoy the warmth of the sand and its softness in our hands. Thanks, @rodin.

    • #3
    • May 8, 2019, at 6:04 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Thatcher

    Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

    — Ecclesiastes 1:2

    • #4
    • May 8, 2019, at 6:07 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Moderator

    We all die of course, but not everything we make is a sand castle. One of the painful joys of studying history for me has been the understanding that what we make, what we say, and what we do does actually survive in some form from one generation to another, whether through our children, or through things we handle and touch, or make, or preserve and restore. Our ideas and our tales (good and ill) outlast us and ripple down through the centuries. An abusive drunkard of a man might be the father of four or more generations of abusers and broken families – people he will never know, and who will not recognize him even as they bear his mark. Yet so also a gentle and loving family patriarch might just as easily be the forefather of generations of diligent but quiet families who somehow, without anyone ever knowing just how, be themselves the bedrocks of their churches and their neighborhoods, long after the ancestors themselves are forgotten. The marks linger.

    • #5
    • May 8, 2019, at 8:15 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  6. Member

    Like the quote and agree with it’s premise but also feel there’s a balance or point (hard to always know or judge) when resisting/fighting for or to preserve something is warranted. 

    • #6
    • May 8, 2019, at 8:25 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    The marks linger.

    Well said, @skipsul. And so true. Thanks.

    • #7
    • May 8, 2019, at 9:04 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    WI Con (View Comment):

    Like the quote and agree with it’s premise but also feel there’s a balance or point (hard to always know or judge) when resisting/fighting for or to preserve something is warranted.

    Completely agree, @wicon. Even when the odds seem impossible, we may want to continue to fight. It’s knowing when it’s time to let go that can be most difficult. Thanks.

    • #8
    • May 8, 2019, at 9:05 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Member

    I’m reminded of a line by a carpenter friend of mine about building your house on a rock, not on sand.

    • #9
    • May 8, 2019, at 9:07 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  10. Member

    “Too low they build who build beneath the stars”

    From Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman.

    • #10
    • May 8, 2019, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Member

    Rodin (View Comment):

    We are all writing in sand.

    Better than Keats: “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.” 

    • #11
    • May 8, 2019, at 1:26 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Member

    The paradox I have experienced is that when I was younger, striving and almost never in a state of affirmation of the moment, I experienced resentment at the thought of death, the few times I permitted the thought. Now that I am older, deeply appreciative of the people in my life and everyday gifts and generally content, death is not an issue. So when I was less appreciative of life, I was less ready to deal with death. Seems backwards. Wisdom is weird.

    • #12
    • May 8, 2019, at 4:50 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The paradox I have experienced is that when I was younger, striving and almost never in a state of affirmation of the moment, I experienced resentment at the thought of death, the few times I permitted the thought. Now that I am older, deeply appreciative of the people in my life and everyday gifts and generally content, death is not an issue. So when I was less appreciative of life, I was less ready to deal with death. Seems backwards. Wisdom is weird.

    Beautiful, @oldbathos. I suspect our impatience in our youth, feeling like we have so much to do and accomplish, gets in the way; death is inconvenient. But when we mature, some of us realize that death is a natural outcome of life. That’s not true for all people; lots of people, especially in the West, fear death, the unknown. Thanks.

    • #13
    • May 8, 2019, at 5:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Member

    Of course, it can’t be true that nothing lasts. If it were, the truth of the claim “Nothing lasts” would last.

    But nothing much lasts. Only a few eternal things. Truth itself, for example, lasts.

    And us, assuming we also are eternal.

    • #14
    • May 8, 2019, at 5:08 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Of course, it can’t be true that nothing lasts. If it were, the truth of the claim “Nothing lasts” would last.

    But nothing much lasts. Only a few eternal things. Truth itself, for example, lasts.

    And us, assuming we also are eternal.

    See my comment #1 re the soul.

    • #15
    • May 8, 2019, at 5:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Coolidge

    I think I’m depressed now. :)

    • #16
    • May 8, 2019, at 6:02 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  17. Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I think I’m depressed now. :)

    Silly guy! Just glory in the life you’re living and let the rest go. And take two aspirin.

    • #17
    • May 8, 2019, at 6:21 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I think I’m depressed now. :)

    Silly guy! Just glory in the life you’re living and let the rest go. And take two aspirin.

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    • #18
    • May 8, 2019, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Thatcher

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Of course, it can’t be true that nothing lasts. If it were, the truth of the claim “Nothing lasts” would last.

    But nothing much lasts. Only a few eternal things. Truth itself, for example, lasts.

    And us, assuming we also are eternal.

    The Preacher in Ecclesiastes tells us that nothing we do lasts.

    • #19
    • May 8, 2019, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Coolidge

    I think being part of something mysterious and far greater than ourselves lasts on some eternal plane….but we only experience the microscopic contribution we are engaged with… which is inevitable from the vantage point of operating on the practical reality level. But that condition makes it very easy to either get depressed, obcessive, or delusional.

    • #20
    • May 8, 2019, at 7:41 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Coolidge

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I think I’m depressed now. :)

    Silly guy! Just glory in the life you’re living and let the rest go. And take two aspirin.

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    • #21
    • May 8, 2019, at 8:10 PM PDT
    • Like
  22. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I think I’m depressed now. :)

    Silly guy! Just glory in the life you’re living and let the rest go. And take two aspirin.

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    So it is eternally true that nothing is eternal?

    • #22
    • May 8, 2019, at 8:12 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Coolidge

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I think I’m depressed now. :)

    Silly guy! Just glory in the life you’re living and let the rest go. And take two aspirin.

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    So it is eternally true that nothing is eternal?

    No. Maybe someday we or some other species after we are long gone might find a way to counter entropy. But for now, we know of nothing that can and it is hubris to claim otherwise.

    • #23
    • May 8, 2019, at 8:27 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Contributor

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Better than Keats: “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.”

    And he was wrong. ;) 

     

    • #24
    • May 8, 2019, at 8:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Contributor

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    Well, a heat-death end to the universe seems pretty fargin’ eternal. A void without conclusion. But if there are systems that create new universes – the Big Crunch, or black holes massive enough to create a Big Bang in a newly formed dimension – then who knows. Maybe the former runs out of material eventually; maybe the latter eventually fails to reproduce the conditions that allow for multiverse propagation. Who knows. 

    I think that’s separate from the question of the existence of the soul, though. When I was a kid sitting in church I found the idea of Eternal Life to be unnerving, like you have to hang around forever with your folks and aunts and uncles and there’s no way out and nothing to do. It seemed ridiculously literal. The fact that admittance was predicated on specific theological choices seemed suspect as well. 

    Now? I will tell you that I don’t believe in the supernatural, or anything that can’t be observed, quantified, replicated, and empirically substantiated, and also that I believe I was visited by my mother’s spirt after she died. 

    • #25
    • May 8, 2019, at 9:11 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  26. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    So it is eternally true that nothing is eternal?

    No. Maybe someday we or some other species after we are long gone might find a way to counter entropy. But for now, we know of nothing that can and it is hubris to claim otherwise.

    So it’s not a certain claim that “There is nothing eternal.” Just a likely conclusion of materialism?

    I agree with that.

    But then why should we think materialism is true? I have several reasons we shouldn’t. Thomas Nagel’s argument is an interesting place to start.

    • #26
    • May 8, 2019, at 9:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Thatcher

    Arguably the idea of a unicorn is more real than unicorns are, or have ever been. How real is that idea?

    • #27
    • May 9, 2019, at 2:41 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Coolidge

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    So it is eternally true that nothing is eternal?

    No. Maybe someday we or some other species after we are long gone might find a way to counter entropy. But for now, we know of nothing that can and it is hubris to claim otherwise.

    So it’s not a certain claim that “There is nothing eternal.” Just a likely conclusion of materialism?

    I agree with that.

    But then why should we think materialism is true? I have several reasons we shouldn’t. Thomas Nagel’s argument is an interesting place to start.

    Who said “materialism” is true? Whatever that is. Why do people feel that they are required to know all things? Sometimes we don’t. Yet.

    • #28
    • May 9, 2019, at 3:00 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    And attend to the eternality of the soul.

    And seek to know and enjoy the eternal things.

    Nah. There is nothing eternal, and there is no such thing as a soul. It is immoral to pretend otherwise.

    So it is eternally true that nothing is eternal?

    No. Maybe someday we or some other species after we are long gone might find a way to counter entropy. But for now, we know of nothing that can and it is hubris to claim otherwise.

    So it’s not a certain claim that “There is nothing eternal.” Just a likely conclusion of materialism?

    I agree with that.

    But then why should we think materialism is true? I have several reasons we shouldn’t. Thomas Nagel’s argument is an interesting place to start.

    Who said “materialism” is true? Whatever that is. . . .

    Well, you said it. Or you meant it. Or you should have. Otherwise your argument is useless.

    Materialism is the claim that everything is matter–the theory that every thing is a physical thing.

    Entropy can be evidence that nothing lasts only if everything is affected by entropy. But entropy affects only physical things (not the immaterial soul, G-d, or whatever other non-physical thing there may be). So your argument only works if materialism is true.

    (However, as far as I can tell, it isn’t.)

    • #29
    • May 9, 2019, at 3:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Thatcher

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Who said “materialism” is true? Whatever that is. Why do people feel that they are required to know all things? Sometimes we don’t. Yet.

    Kurt Gödel proved that there are things which are true, but are not proved because they cannot be.

    That sort of puts a hard ceiling on what we can know.

    • #30
    • May 9, 2019, at 3:31 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
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