On Attachment

by Fernando Perfas

| Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

The young boy sat by the edge of the water and, for the final time, took in everything around. The sea was calm, except for the gentle surf on a rocky outcrop nearby. He walked to this spot from his home, where he had a good vantage point of the sea and the mountains around him. He shed his tears of goodbye to the place where he woke up to his boyhood. He developed a sentimental attachment to the place, the land of his ancestors. Though poor and desolate, the place offered him comforting familiarity.

Years later, I had to say another sad goodbye. I was the little boy. My high school had been the cradle of an emerging self, and four years spent in it had seen the flowering of a disastrous love and a budding of intellectual curiosity. My ironic attachment to the “agony and ecstasy” of adolescence was incomprehensible to me. Not wishing to forget and leave behind the emotional intensity of that period, I moved on with my life with a great deal of trepidation.

The limestone and brick buildings, the confines of my university, set in one of the most historical landmarks of Manila, offered temporary solace from the uncertainties of life. Four years of college offered an unprecedented era of intellectual and spiritual growth and the beginning of lasting friendships with many of my peers. It was also my refuge from personal hardships, which I shared with many. It was a community of people, many of whom suffered similar wants in life. It was difficult to leave the place, for I had grown attached to the certainty of knowing the people there. I marched to my graduation from university into the void of life after college.

“Breaking up ties and giving up attachments to people, places, and things is often heart-breaking. However, the zest for life, our fundamental attachment to life itself, is what tides us over. Through the years, and along the way, we suffer setbacks, losses of friends and loved ones, and always the attachment to life helps us pick up the pieces and move on.”

Leaving home to start on my own was a milestone filled with sadness. The reassuring sounds and scent of my home were there no more. I was on my own. Although life was difficult through the years, my family shared hardships that made everything bearable. Now I must face life without them.

I left the land of my birth, and I pulled my remaining roots from the motherland to start a new home in a foreign land. I have to give up my ties to familiar things and took sail on an uncharted sea. Neither friends nor family within easy reach, it was my attachment to my wife and children that sustained me during those uncertain years.

Attachment, which is the bane of spiritual liberation, is ironically so essential in human emotional development. Mothers who are unable to provide physical and emotional nurturance to their young, thus hampering their ability to bond emotionally with their offspring and vice versa, often produce children who themselves cannot develop a healthy emotional attachment. This primordial emotional bonding between mother and child is crucial to the child’s ability to thrive and for his future normal physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development. Attachment is at the heart of human relationships, the binding force between lovers, and the cohesive glue that keeps a family together. Without it, our species would simply vanish.

Breaking up ties and giving up attachments to people, places, and things is often heart-breaking. However, the zest for life, our fundamental attachment to life itself, is what tides us over. Through the years, and along the way, we suffer setbacks, losses of friends and loved ones, and always the attachment to life helps us pick up the pieces and move on. That very attachment that sustains us is not everlasting, and eventually, we’ll be faced with the final test: giving up our attachment to life.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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