Impermanence – or – Laughing at my Brother’s Loss

Ship on Puget Sound

A couple of days ago, while exploring the Olympic Peninsula and while reflecting on my brother’s unusual (for him) and spontaneous decision to fly out here, the thought popped into my mind, “Jeff’s here for a reason.”…

Without thinking about it – and regretting it as soon as the words came out – I said, “You’re here for a reason Jeff. I don’t know what it is, but something brought you here and it’s for a purpose.” Just like my mysterious 5 am insights, this too was a powerful thought that popped into my mind and of which I can claim no control over nor credit for. Once my fat mouth blabbed the words, Jeff started poking and probing and prodding trying to get me to explain myself. Sometimes (often) he can be like a dragonfly that keeps flitting and bashing itself against your window, persistently trying to get in. But analysis doesn’t work so hot at explaining this sort of stuff and I often get frustrated trying to make myself clear without sounding like some new age charlatan.

But yesterday, the day Jeff was flying back, he lost his camera. For the entire trip, his camera seemed to be hinting at him, almost like an omen, not to count on all these photos he was taking. It kept giving him a “Low Battery” warning – no matter which freshly charged battery he put in it.

After digging through the Jeep and coming to terms that the camera was indeed lost, I realized what the “reason” for Jeff’s visit was: It was to remind us of the lesson of Impermanence.

Impermanence is a central concept to Buddhism and says simply, “Nothing you see or experience is permanent. Everything is temporary. Nothing lasts.” Sounds depressing as hell, but accepting this truth can be surprisingly freeing. Once you accept this idea as a fact of life, you quickly realize the futility of clinging to things you crave and love – and shunning the things you hate and despise. You start accepting the present moment as a gift – a very fleeting gift – and you learn to appreciate and love anything and anyone that is sharing this moment with you.

With the appreciation of this fleeting moment, a profound sense of gratitude is often felt, and, with complete acceptance of it (neither clinging, shunning, nor trying to change things) a powerful feeling of oneness and happiness will soon overwhelm you.

So when Jeff lost his camera and I realized the “reason” for his visit, I laughed at his loss. I told him I could have said I felt bad about his losing all those great photos, but I didn’t want to lie to him. Sounds cold – but it was the truth. Wise people have scars – and eventually they come to love the situations and the rat bastards which gave them the scars. Now, hopefully, when he tells the story of why he doesn’t have any photos of his trip, he’ll be reminded of the wonders and beauty of impermanence – and he’ll pass along its wisdom to whomever he’s telling the “lost camera” story to.

All those photos he took, “Poof” – they were gone. Just like you, me, your kids, your dog, your house, your job, “Poof” they’ll soon be gone. Because holding onto and trying to protect the things you love from the inevitable won’t do you a damn bit of good, learn to appreciate each moment you have with them – with this very moment – and see if you don’t live a happier and fuller life.

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7 thoughts on “Impermanence – or – Laughing at my Brother’s Loss

  1. I always found the Buddhist take on impermanence so depressing; then I started to view things as ‘pure being’, ‘unfolding’, or ‘evolving’; old things fading to make room for new things in the present moment. While purely being for the ego’s benefit, reframing ‘loss’ in this way helps me a lot, right now.

  2. Yes, he really did laugh. A quite hearty and heart felt laugh actually! But, he’s also right about the lesson. And though I’m still far too “Solid” to fully appreciate it…. I do see the wisdom of accepting the concept of “Impermanence”. A funny thing though…. I didn’t get upset about losing the camera, just somewhat sorry to not be able to share the photos with my kids and girlfriend. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

    Flit, buzz, bash 🙂

  3. Well, you did it again. My impermanent best friend died this day. But, I knew it was comming so we were able to enjoy and appriciate these last few weeks. It was a cause and effect deal. She was responding so well to her cancer treatments that she was more active and the Vet thinks the activity caused a blood clot to loosen and enter her brain (it was a perfect weather weekend)

  4. @Doug: Ahh, I’m sorry to hear that. Freedom was a great dog and had been through a lot with you. It’s great that she was feeling so much better in her last few weeks – best way to go. Sorry for you Doug, and sorry for the synchronicity.

    @Everyone: Yes, impermanence – the fact that everything is temporary – is a hard lesson to learn, but by keeping it in mind, we’ll come to appreciate this very moment, because you never know when that hidden blood clot will break loose.

  5. Jeff will just have to get another camera and take another long weekend with you. That said, impermanence is only depressing if you are in a happy situation or place. When times are tough, like they are now for many people, knowing that “this too shall pass” is very uplifting.

  6. @Doug: I grieve with thee.

    @Dragonfly: maybe you should learn how to paint? That way, you can paint the views you remember. It’s just an idea….

    @Wayne: I’ve been thinking… and it reminds me of something that Mercedes Lackey wrote: “That was then, this is now; the moment is never the same twice.” Maybe your theme song should be Enya’s “Anywhere Is”, as she talks about this very thing in that song.

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