Strange how memories bubble up in dreams.
In the past few weeks, memories of kindergarten have popped up in my dreams, even though those events are now more than 20 years ago. The class was sitting in a circle, passing along a small Tupperware filled with whole milk that we were each to shake to turn the milk into butter. The butter was made, and we later spread it on some banana nut bread, of which each student received a slice.
My kindergarten teacher was, when she taught me, actually younger than I am now. I distinctly remember her telling someone that she was 24 years old. In these last 20+ years it blows my mind that the time I spent growing up could be the span of someone’s entire career.
I’ve wondered about my teachers who have impacted my life and how they are doing now. I am fortunate enough to keep in contact with a few, but with most I have no idea how they are now.
Perhaps it’s because we live in a much more mobile world now that I feel a sense of unease about how transient our communities have become. I understand that what makes a community is the personal connections made. I have no trouble picking up a conversation with a friend who I have not seen in person in over ten years (in fact, I did so last week). Yet, there’s still this melancholy, rooted in attachment, that comes from knowing that we have been apart, that we have changed, and that we can’t take it for granted when we will see each other next.
Memory is a double-edged sword. Because of memory, we can make connections with others. As much as I would like to practice unconditional love for all, generally speaking, we are more loving towards people we know than we are to perfect strangers. How likely would you be to making a connection with someone who you could never remember? Their habits, their quirks, and all of their endearing characteristics…
But memory also forms attachment, makes it hard for us to let go. When someone we love has moved on, or passed on, it is all of those endearing characteristics that we can no longer experience that we miss. We are constantly changing, but the memory of those who we love but no longer see stay the same. Yet, everyone is changing no matter where they are. Always chasing after that same experience (impossible, as we are all changing) then becomes living in the past.
That is the tragedy of people who have grown apart, when you realize that someone who you care for is not who you remember them to be, or that you are not the person that you thought you were. And if our loved one has passed on, we don’t know what’s going on beyond the veil (if there is anything at all) and how different everything is for them over there.
I want to love without attachment. I’ve wondered about my ability to do so. Sure, I’ve gone to places and done good things for people without the expectation of anything in return, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t wonder about where those people are now. Those elementary school boys I lived with, taught English to, and played soccer with in Puebla are probably in high school now. I wonder about the lives of the high school students in inner city Chicago who I gave presentations to. Have their lives gotten better after graduation? Did they go to college?
How free from your attachments can you get? Or will they only hold you down, trap you in the past? I know you can give up everything and everyone you know and still love them – that’s how immigration works. That’s how the United States was built. You are still making new connections all the time, your future is filled with connections that you have not yet made. But immigration in recent times still assumes some form of attachment, that you still go back to the “old country” from time to time to visit your family and friends. But could you still give up everyone you know and love for a one-way ticket to Mars?