let it go -- the

by e. e. cummings

Original Language English

let it go -- the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise -- let it go it
was sworn to

let them go -- the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers -- you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go -- the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things -- let all go

so comes love

-- from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, by e. e. cummings

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I apologize about my absence for the past couple of weeks. I had a dental crisis that led to a tooth extraction, which unexpectedly became dental surgery. I am recovering now and doing well.

It was quite an ordeal for more than a week leading up to the surgery, however. In a perverse way, it is fascinating to recognize just how much pain the body can be subjected to and what that experience is. When such sharp pain lasts for an extended period of time, over days, it is curious how our relationship to that pain can evolve and change. At first recognition of the discomfort, my instinct was to ignore it or shuffle it aside, hoping it would pass, not wanting to interrupt my rhythms and focus. Then when it became strong and undeniable, I had to reorder my sense of reality to acknowledge that it was an issue that was present and demanded attention and help. All too quickly the bravado crumbled and the desire to end the pain took over every thought.

But when pain medication only partially muted the pain and surgical relief was still days away, I realized that I had the option to either rage at the pain, tensing up and shutting down to fight my own senses, or I could do my best to relax, to accept the simple reality of its presence, to observe it, and to observe myself. Doing that, the pain started to become more fluid. It shifted out of "pain" and into a different sort of experience, something I might call "intensity." For a a few days, that intensity became my worship, my meditation, my willing sacrifice.

But it was the actual surgery and the tooth extraction that prompted my selection of this poem. The tooth isn't normally visible when I am talking or laughing, so its removal doesn't have much social consequence. But it is a removal of a part of my body, a part that will never grow back. It can be replaced with a false tooth, sure, but the tooth itself, that part that was part of "me" is permanently gone. It is a partial death, if I want to look at it that way.

Of course, I don't really believe that "I" am merely my body, nor is the loss of any part of that body an actual loss of self. But that's easy to say or believe in an intellectual sense. Surgery forces me to prove it. It demands a deep examination of this belief. Do I truly relate to reality in this way, fully embodying it and living it from the inside out, or do I merely cultivate a facade in order to feel "spiritual"?

This was all encapsulated within the surgery itself -- the intensity of physical sensation which held the potential to overwhelm my senses as pain, all the while thinking of that one tooth the dentist was working at. It had been a living part of my body for nearly the whole of my life. As part of my body, in some ways it had been part of me and I identified with it. Yet in a deeper sense it was more of an expression of me and my life energy, not truly me in my essence. I almost came to think of it as a companion along the journey. And it was time to let go.

That was my attitude during the surgery: Let go. With gratitude.

So many of our difficulties are caused by clinging to things and experiences when it is time for them to leave our lives. We cling to them because we identify with them. We believe they are somehow essential to who and what we are. We fear that without them, death or loss of self must result. Letting go, in the proper time, restores our balance and perspective. It reminds us that we are not those things and experiences, not even the body itself. It reminds us that even with loss and change, we ourselves remain -- full of life and undiminished.

Let it go. With love. With gratitude.

This practice, enjoined on us by the impermanent nature of the world, reminds us of our eternal nature as we witness the pageantry and movement all about us.

-- let all go

so comes love

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let it go -- the