[NetBehaviour] The Art of Giving Up.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Wed Nov 15 14:21:34 CET 2006

The Art of Giving Up.

By Dyske Suematsu.

One winter night, one of the few Japanese friends I had in my early 20s 
was playing a guitar at his company Christmas party. He was an architect 
and was about 10 years older than I was. Before he decided to study 
architecture, he was making a living as a guitarist in Japan. This was 
not the first time I heard him play, but I was still stunned by how good 
he was. After his performance, I told him that it was a shame that he 
was no longer pursuing his musical career. He then shared with me his 
recent realization that life is a process of giving up. At the time, I 
didn’t think much of what he said. I think I remembered it only because 
of its unusual reversal of the popularly held beliefs. Especially on 
this land of dreams, “giving up” is seen almost as sacrilegious. 
Everyone’s livelihood seems to precariously hinge on holding big, albeit 
distant dreams. For some people, the more dreams, the better. So, what 
did my friend mean when he said that life is a process of giving up?

Now, I not only understand it, but also believe it myself. Another of 
way saying the same thing is that life is a process of letting go of 
your own ego, or letting go of your attachments. Contrary to what one 
might assume from the connotations of the expression “giving up”, this 
is done in order to enjoy life more. For instance, you cannot enjoy 
alcohol if you are attached (or addicted) to it. Enjoyment of anything 
requires a certain distance. When the idea of self (ego) is attached to 
the object of enjoyment, you lose the ability to see it for what it is. 
I believe this is partly responsible for the phenomenon called “writer’s 
block”, in which the identity “writer” is attached to one’s ego so much 
that the fear of losing that identity becomes greater than the 
enthusiasm for writing. It is by giving up the idea of becoming a 
“writer” that one is able to be a writer and enjoy being one. This is 
difficult to do especially in a country where one’s existence is defined 
by one’s profession. The fear of not living up to the reputation of the 
greatest American writer is probably what killed the writer in Truman 
Capote, for instance.


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