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On Letting Go

And when this detachment ascends to the highest place, it knows nothing of knowing, it loves nothing of loving, and from light it becomes dark.
Meister Eckhart

Letting something go initially implies a double movement. To be released toward things is also to be released from something that holds us back. But it is only in being released from what that which holds us back that we can be released toward what truly concerns us. Or inversely, it is only in being released toward what concerns us that we are released from what holds us. This is the movement of releasement: a to and fro, a toward and from. It is an active movement (going toward something) which is at the same time a passive movement (going away from something). What is peculiar to this active and passive motion is that nothing is done to that which is left behind in the act of moving away inasmuch as abandoning something is to leave that which is left as it is; what is left is left to be what it is. But nothing is also done to that which is approached in the same way that coming near something does not change that which is approached; it is only seen clearer, seen to be more what it is. The ambiguity of the movement of releasement itself shows that it cannot be simply categorized as action or passion for being released signifies a leaving-from and a going-toward which both do not alter that which is left or what is approached. In its single paradoxical motion, releasement is a releasement from . . . and a releasement toward . . . .

To release something initially and for the most part means to let something go. When one releases a check, one allows and lets the payee to cash in on the amount specified so that the money is able to transfer hands. When one releases a grip on things, one tries to let things happen by themselves without trying to predict, control and rein in what could happen as a charioteer releases the reins from the horses so that they may be left to ride in the wind without much restrain and restriction. To release a caged bird would also mean letting it go: what was once trapped in the narrow cage where it could not stretch its wings when released would finally be able to fly in the bottomless sky and blazing sun. To release the Other would also thus mean to give back to him what is most truly his own and finally relinquish one'’s control over him, it would be to let the Other go on in its way without being hindered or held back without resentment and in absolute way. And finally, to release oneself (to the Other, to God, etc.) would be to let go of oneself in a total abandon which does not save anything for the swim back and would also be a surrender to the completely Other who calls me. In this release, where my liberty and life are at stake, it is already a matter of faith. It is said that there is no greater love.

To release then means to relinquish one's control over that which is ultimately autonomous, complete and self-sufficient. What had been previously obfuscated by thy dirty hands would then be allowed to emerge on its own and on its own terms. Men too easily fall for the trap and temptation of laying his hands on what is not his or what can never be his. And this could be seen in the way that anytime he wishes to claim for himself what is essentially not his, the danger of violence becomes possible. Releasement is the other of violence, in that that which is released is set free: —free to be what it is in its own way to be. Releasement releases so that it can make free that which was up till then held onto, contained or held back. The sheer possibility and actuality of being able to let go of something shows that there are many things that man erroneously claims for himself that does not belong to himself. If we were not able to let go of things then man would rightly be the center of the world and everything would be under his control and dominion. But by his ability to release things to themselves shows that it cannot be that simple.

Perhaps, life is nothing other than the continuous giving up of things; knowledge is knowledge of what I increasingly learn to be not mine. This is why the whole process is difficult; it is like continuous avowal of what is larger than me, of what I cannot control. Poverty is its price, humility its reward. A life begins knowing that it can claim everything; it ends by giving up everything. And it is this perpetual releasement or giving up that makes a man wealthy and wise. For in releasing things to be themselves, one is also released from them; in setting things free and on their own way to be, one is also set free. To release something then means to set it free and to set yourself free from it. In a word, releasement means to let things be (Gelassenheit).


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