The Wisdom of Non-Attachment: A Smoked Glass Table and a Life Lesson

When I got married I was an executive but in my head I was a graduate student. So my dibs reflected that. I had little furniture and it was mismatched and shabby. And books were everywhere.

We moved to an apartment and needed a dining room set and I saw a picture of one with a smoked glass table and elegant chairs and I wanted it. I mean, REALLY wanted it. My wife would have been satisfied with any number of choices but I refused them all. Nothing but that smoked glass table for me.

We bought it. It was expensive and we scrimped elsewhere.

We moved from an apartment to a starter home and then added substantially to it to accommodate our growing family. The table came with us and was in the family room. There were many happy memories of us playing games on it, using it as a snack table during parties and so on.

My son became a serious model builder and it served as his work-table. He was really good. He won first or second prize in his age group at the International Plastic Modelers Convention in all three categories he entered – aircraft, ships and armored fighting vehicles. We have boxes of finely painted finished models and shelves of awards and plaques.

My son left home years ago and is now an attorney clerking for a justice in the Utah Supreme Court. My daughter left more than a decade ago. She is married and is running her own start-up. And we have a house full of memories and far too much stuff.

Last week, my wife dragged my unwilling self into a cleaning spree and we packed away my son’s model building gear and tools. The hood and exhaust fan went into storage.

And the smoked glass table which now had streaks of paint on the surface? We left it outside a day before the garbage pick up. It was gone the next morning along with the chairs. I hope that whoever took it makes equally happy memories.

And that brings me to the life lesson.

Whatever we gather and hoard and cherish is in time and space. And whatever is in time and space will wither and be stripped from us whether we like it or not.

Your baby’s first tooth in its own tiny silver casket, your college diploma that represents so much money and time and effort, your elegant clothes, your carefully preserved bottles of fine wine, your cherished mementoes and keepsakes – all stuff. Just stuff. And it will go one day.

Think about this. Really think about the impermanence of all things.

When this seeps into your consciousness, your relationship with the world of things changes. You still use them but you are not attached to them. They come and they go and that is fine and the way it should be.

And you experience a tiny reflection of the freedom that sages have known and extoll.

Begin today. Pick up any item that you have not used for a year or more. Does it still add value to your life? Or is it clutter that remains to complicate existence?

If you do not actively want it, get rid of it. Give it away to someone deserving and the joy of doing so is worth it many times over.


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