Thursday, March 31, 2005

Letting Go

Amy Sullivan points out that which is simultaneously obvious (to those who are rational, at least) and yet overlooked (by the media and the religious right): the outpouring of supposedly religious concern to preserve Terri Schiavo's life, such as it was, reflects a yearning to postpone and deny death, a yearning which is ultimately rooted in the fear of death. Sullivan writes, "I wonder how these religious leaders, who cling so fiercely to the idea of life, can prepare people of faith for the inevitable reality of death." Indeed, and furthermore, one wonders how such a fear of death can really coexist with the very idea of life. The fear of death is the flipside of the fear of life. These religious leaders may be failing to prepare people of faith for the reality of death, and they are also failing to prepare them for life. Death is a part of life, and life is a process of letting go.

The following passage reminds me of this dialectic: Mark C. Taylor, “Indifference,” About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture, pp. 257-9.
The most difficult lesson time teaches is the necessity of letting-go. This lesson begins before we begin, for we find ourselves always already having been let go. This letting-go is a release that gives by abandoning. Abandonment, in turn, releases indifferently. Since to be is to have been released, being is inevitably a letting. The letting that lets us be is a leasing that renders all being renting. We always live on borrowed time, yet we know not to whom the rent is due. Perhaps, though we can never be certain, we owe no one; perhaps, though we can never be certain, we own nothing.

Torn by a rent that can never be repaired or repaid, we do not own what we seem to possess. All having is a not-having, which is a having-not. To have-not is to be dispossessed of everything—even ourselves. To live the dispossession of being, having must become a not-having, which is impossible apart from letting-go.

To have-not is to let go of what we never possess. Possessed by possession(s), we struggle to deny our not-having, but the harder we cling, the less we have. When we finally discover the courage to be not, dispossession comes as a great release. This re-lease repeats and extends the release that is not ours. Having been abandoned, we now abandon by letting go of everything and everybody once held dear. This letting-go is a letting-be. There can be no letting-go without letting-be and no letting-be without letting-go.

This letting-go that is a letting-be and letting-be that is a letting-go must be done with indifference. Indifference releases while expecting nothing in return. Absolutely nothing. To let go indifferently is to give unconditionally. Since recognition perpetuates the cycle of debt, an unconditional gift can never be acknowledged as such. A giving, which is not a taking, lets go of the struggle for recognition by neither creating debt nor accepting credit.

Release becomes unconditional when we accept abandonment by letting ourselves be abandoned. We never really let go until we allow others to let go of us. If we expect anything other than the other’s indifference, we have no yet let go. Letting-go only occurs when we live (with) indifference by becoming indifferent to indifference.

. . . Loving . . .

“I love you no matter what.”
“No matter what?”
“No matter what.”
“No matter what I do?”
“No matter what.”
“No matter what I don’t do?”
“No matter what.”

We have heard the words so often that they no longer seem extraordinary. “No matter what? . . . No matter what.” How can such familiar words be made strange?

Love, it appears, is a matter of indifference. For love to be love, it must be unconditional: I love the other no matter what. What the beloved does makes no difference to the lover, for love’s only law is to be without return. This law is, of course, unlawful, for it breaks (with) every legal economy. Love is beyond the law—it is a matter of grace, amazing grace.

Grace is indifferent. It is given, if at all, freely—without regard for what has been done or left undone. As such, grace is undeniably careless. Though it seems impossible, I care most deeply when I care not. The carelessness of “No matter what” is awful—truly awful. If it doesn’t matter, who cares? If no one cares, nothing seems to matter. And, in a certain sense, nothing does matter. In the profitless economy of grace, no one can afford (to) care. Care remains bound to and by the law; not just any law but the law of laws, which is the law of return.


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