In a recent “light” conversation about the nature of existence – not that unusual a topic in a lawyer-Zen-priest household – my husband took me completely aback when he asked, “Since you’re into ‘letting go,’ are you going to vote in the upcoming elections?”
To him, letting go – not being attached – apparently meant not caring about what happens in this world.
But that’s not it. Yes, even though my Zen training calls for me to be not attached, I am not detached. There is a big difference. I understand that this life, as this person, is transitory. Yet, in this existence, as this person, I am fully engaged in the world.
It is this understanding that makes my basic priorities different than his – and those of many of our friends. For instance, he and they may want to talk more about politics and politicians, issues of the day and the books they’re reading. (When they ask what I’m reading and I respond that I’m reading “books about Zen,” I know that this is pretty much a conversation-stopper.)
My Zen teacher says that when we truly understand the transitory nature of life, then acquiring power is not important. Neither is acquiring prestige or fame.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we are not engaged with life. Rather, we are totally present in the here and now of it all. Very much so, but just from a different perspective.
So yes, I am voting. And, because since I became eligible to vote, I’ve never missed an election, and I’m going to vote early.
It’s important in the here and now. And I, as this person, in this life, am fully engaged.