Hold Fast or Just Let It Go
Hold fast, and let go .Understand this paradox, and you stand At the very gate of wisdom.
The art of living is to know when to hold fast and when to let go. For
life is a paradox: itenjoins us to cling to its many gifts even while
it ordains their eventual relinquishment. Therabbis of old put it this way: "a man comes to this world with his fist clenched, but when he dies,his hand is open."
Surely we ought to hold fast to life, for it is wondrous, and full of a beauty that breaks throughevery pore of God's own earth. We know that is so, but all too often we recognize this truth onlyin our backward glance when remember what it was and then suddenly realize that it is no more.
A recent experience re-taught me this truth. I was hospitalized following a severe heart attackand had been in intensive care for days. It was not a pleasant place.
One morning, I had to have some additional tests. The required machines were located in abuilding at the opposite end of the hospital, so I had to be wheeled across the courtyard on agurney.
As we emerged from our unit, the sunlight hit me. That's all there was to my experience. Justthe light of the sun. And yet how beautiful it was—how warning, how sparking, how brilliant!
I looked to see whether anyone else realized that sun's golden glow, but everyone washurrying to and fro, most with eyes fixed on the ground. Then I remembered how often, too, hadbeen indifferent to the grandeur of each day, too preoccupied with petty and sometimes evenmean concerns to respond to the splendor of it all.
The insight gleaned from that experience is really as commonplace as was the experienceitself: life's gifts are precious-but we are too heedless of them.
Here then is the first pole of life's paradoxical demands on us: Never too busy for the wonderand the awe of life. Be reverent before each dawning day. Embrace each hour. Seize each goldenminute.
Hold fast to life…but not so fast that you cannot let go.
This is second side of life's coin, the opposite pole of its paradox: we must accept our losses,and learn how to let go.
This is not an easy lesson to learn, especially when we are young and think that the world isours to command, that whatever we desire with the full force of our passionate being can, nay, will,be ours. But then life moves along to confront us with realities, and slowly but surely this secondtruth dawns upon us.
At every stage of life we sustain losses—and grow in the process. We begin our independentlives only when we emerge from the womb and lose its protective shelter. We enter a proGREssionof schools; then we leave our mothers and fathers and our childhood homes. We get married andhave children and then have to let them go. We confront the death of our parents and ourspouses. We face the gradual or not so gradual waning of our own strength. And ultimately,
as theopen and closed hand suggests, we must confront the inevitability
of our own demise, losingourselves, as it were, all that we were or
dreamed to be.
But why should we be reconciled to life's contradictory demands? Why
fashion things ofbeauty when beauty is evanescent? Why give our heart
In order to resolve this paradox, we must seek a wider perspective,
viewing our lives asthrough windows that open on eternity. Once we do
that, we realize that though our lives arefinite, our deeds on earth
weave a timeless pattern.
Life is never just being. It's a becoming, a relentless flowing
on. Our parents live on thoughtus, and we will live on though our
children. The institutions we build endure, and we will endurethough
them. The beauty we fashion cannot be dimmed by death. Our flesh may
perish; ourhands will wither, but that which they create in beauty and
goodness and truth lives on for all timeto come.
Don't spend and waste your lives accumulating objects that will only
turn to dust and ashes.Pursue not so much the material as the ideal, for
ideals alone invest life with meaning and are ofenduring worth.
Add love to a house and you have a home. Add righteousness to a city
and you have acommunity. Add truth to a pile of red brick and you have
school. Add religion to the humblest ofedifices and you have a sanctuary.
Add justice to the far flung round of human endeavor andyou have
civilization. Put them all together, exalt them above their present
imperfections, add tothem the vision of humankind redeemed, forever
free of need and strife and you have a futurelighted with the colors