I spent the long holiday week (Tuesday through Saturday) in Takoma Park, Maryland, where winter had still not arrived. The temperatures hugged 60 for a few days and the leaves, while dry, still retained their red. Aussie and I arrived there after a long drive to a generous, loving welcome.
And to songs. Lots of them. My 11-year-old grandson blasted out the song Let It Go, from the Disney blockbuster Frozen. Over and over, he’d walk around the house singing it at the top of his lungs, or else he’d offer to do a show after dinner. We’d sit in the living room, he’d put on an instrumental version, leave, re-enter from the side doorway, spread his arms wide, and belt out the song, striding up and down the room like a macho version of Elsa in the show, swinging his left arm up and down, then the right, waving both arms to the sides as though pushing aside a curtain.
Not just Let It Go in English. After that he treats us to his rendition of the song in German, then Hebrew, then Portuguese, and finally, Turkish. Let it go! Let it go! he sings in his high-pitched voice, loud enough to be heard by the entire street. Let it go! Let it go! Let it go!
Letting go is a big practice in Zen, has been for well over a millennium, and refers to letting go of fixed ideas of all kinds, the scaffolding holding up a separate self and personality. But you know that it’s really finally made it when Disney makes of it a huge musical hit, topping all the charts.
In this American can-do culture, everything should be possible if only you’re ready to dream it, work hard, make friends with the right frog, rooster, or tiger, and when you yell that you’ve finally let it go, make sure the warm, black wrap you’ve been wearing to make it up the icy mountains (the movie, after all, is called Frozen for a reason) drops off your shoulders to reveal you in a silver, skin-tight dress. When you’ve let it all go you wind up wearing a strapless containing more jewels than Elizabeth Taylor ever befriended.
Elsa sings of letting go of her family’s training and expectations, their cautions on how to behave like a lady, and now becoming who she really is: wild, emotional, FREE! “The past is in the past,” cries Elsa.
Just make the right wish, maybe go through a couple of challenges and frustrations that you will, of course, overcome since you’re a star, and an hour later it’s done! Presto! You’re free, a hero, beloved and adored, and maybe have found a good-looking guy or gal to boot.
I was amused to hear my grandson sing the song in Hebrew, where let it go was translated into la’azov, which means to leave. As in: Leave behind your family, the people, the past. Leave everything behind you—and fly.
Trouble is, they don’t leave you, even if you think you’re ready to leave them.
Before driving down for Thanksgiving, I had tea with a friend at home. He reminded me that, after Bernie’s stroke, he and his wife would have dinner with him every once in a while, when I was traveling. The food would be ready, and different people, mostly my students or his, would come to warm it up and eat alongside him. At the end he’d thank them, bid them good night, and go upstairs, and they would wash the dishes in the kitchen and leave.
“He said something to me then,” my friend said, “that I can’t forget. He said: ‘There’s one life, and we all share that life.’”
Many years ago, I also wanted to put my family behind me, let it all go, start from scratch, pretend none of it existed. The best thing I’ve ever done was let go of that.
“Sometimes,” I told my grandson after hearing the song in six different languages some 300 times, “it’s imp9ortant to let go of letting go.”
He let go of that advice awfully fast.
Speaking of letting go, next week begins our annual Enlightenment Retreat. Participation is still open, even for part-time attendance, and there are scholarships. Go here for details.