One of the things about the Star Wars prequels that bugged me was that in expanding the way of the Jedi, they became these celibate, passionless monks.
Obi-Wan of A New Hope had fire in his belly, a real devotion and passion for The Force. Luke also was passionate, albeit too-much so at times.
Then you get to the prequels, and the Jedi are just these dull, semi-effectual monks with lightsabers.
I get that the light side of the Force is about calm and peace — but the utter lack of passion was, in all likelihood, a big part of why they were blinded to Palpatine and the dark side.
I really do have a point here. Along that line, Anakin explains at one point to Amidala, as she is chiding him for being unable to love people, that what is forbidden is not love, but attachment.
This part I get. Attachment is often mistaken for love and other comforting feelings. It also can be a major source of stagnation.
How does that work? Because whatever you get attached to, whether material or immaterial, becomes difficult if not impossible to let go of. But when you hold onto a thing because you are attached to it, you also inadvertently tend to withhold yourself in numerous ways.
What IS attachment?
I used to not get this concept at all. That is, until not so long ago.
There are many tchotchkes that I used to collect when I was younger. Old license plates, small porcelain animal figurines, various dragons, and so on. I also used to hold onto all my stuffed animals, Star Wars toys, books, and other pieces of both useful and useless memorabilia.
It never has been so bad that I could be considered in any way a hoarder — but the last two times I moved it occurred to me that I possess an awful lot of useless stuff.
Why? Because these were things I had become attached to for some reason or other. Unnecessary do-dads and goo-gahs and just stuff, some of which has either cluttered up shelves or storage space or gotten hidden in closets until…I don’t know what that would be.
Attachment of this nature is psychological. There is a comfort, a knowing that comes of having that thing, whatever it is. Even if not right there to be observed, that thing makes you feel comforted.
The trouble is, the more attachment you develop, the harder it is to let go. When you cannot let go of things you are attached to, moving forward becomes challenging.
Attachment tends to tie to the past
Most of the crap I have moved with me over the years was stuff I believed I could not let go of. Things I began to collect in my childhood; books, books, and more books; items of nostalgia representing High School or College or some other life milestone.
I think everyone is familiar with what happens when someone becomes so attached to things they just gather and gather and gather. This is where hoarders come from. People so attached to so many things, they can let go of nothing at all. It makes for cringe-worthy television and horror stories.
But more than that, attachment to material things is usually connected directly to immaterial matters. For example, there is a trio of paperweights on my desk. None of them are used to hold paper down. All of them live on this desk because they belonged to my grandfather…and so did the desk.
Yes, these have special meaning to me. I collected them when I collected this desk after my grandmother’s passing. Any and all attachment I have to them is purely emotional.
My grandfather passed away in 1990. My grandmother, his widow, in 2005. They had a lot of stuff, and the family (with no fighting or disputes whatsoever) divided up furniture, art, and other things among us and took it after we sold their home.
Yes, I am attached to the things I claimed that were theirs because they had meaning for me. But with few exceptions, I would be able to give much of it up.
Letting go of stuff
Prior to my wife and me moving into our current apartment, we purged a lot of stuff. Along the way, I began to develop a sense of what I could make use of versus what I was pointlessly attached to. That made it much easier to toss things out and give things away.
As I have become more aware of the difference between having things and being attached to things, I’ve begun to let go of the things that are not so important to me. Memory is great, and having reminders of the past is nice. But do I really need to keep those paperback books I will never read again? Must I display two dozen tiny animal figurines?
Recognizing attachment to the physical things has helped me to see attachment to the intangible, too. That sense of needing a thing for comfort can hold you back far more than you might realize.
I am in no way advocating getting rid of every nonsensical item you have to declutter your life. Some things are special in ways that defy explanation, which you just KNOW and accept. But it is super helpful to be able to see that what you are holding onto is holding you back in life.
The paperweights stay. So does the die-cast metal Millennium Falcon from 1977 on my bookshelf. Some of this stuff doesn’t just serve a sentimental purpose…it can also be a source for happy memories.
In our crazy fear-based society, anything that puts a smile on your face is likely good for you.
Having things is ok
There is nothing wrong with having things that are largely useless. I may have purged a lot of my pointless stuff, but in addition to my fully functional fencing swords, I have another half dozen mostly decorative live steel swords and daggers.
What is important is recognizing attachment to things. Becoming attached to material things is often an extension of an immaterial attachment. When you apply this to people and places directly it can show you where your comfort zone may be…or the pillow fort of your youth that it may be time to leave behind.
When you become attached to something, letting go can trigger a fight or flight response. This, in turn, can jam you up pretty good, and hold you in a time and place that may not serve you so well. This is where relationships get prolonged that should end; jobs that should be quit are clung to; places that need to be left behind are remained in.
Attachment can be cloyingly sweet and may come disguised as nostalgia. But change is inevitable, unavoidable, and more than that the past is passed. You can’t go back, you can only move on from there.
A lot of people get attached to ways and means that serve a select few. That attachment will cause them to fight with all that they’ve got, shout to be heard over all else, and create unnecessary conflict. Where do you think white supremacy, bigotry, and misogyny have their roots? Attachment to a wrong-headed notion.
Attachment also can cause people to believe in lack and scarcity. Belief that there is not enough of this, that, or the other thing creates an unhealthy attachment that gets used to deny other people rights, kindness, and so on.
Your life is yours
If the things you are attached to make you happy, and you feel no need to change your life because it is already excellent — more power to you. I hope that you can maintain your happiness and find more.
If not, then I hope you can find what things, material or immaterial, you can let go of, so that you can continue to move forward and improve your life.
Knowing the difference between having things and attachment to things can open you up to lots of possibilities. Know that you are worthy and deserving to be the best you that you can be, and do what you can to go for it.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done, you matter, and you can decide what to keep and what to let go of.