I was at a holiday party once, where a white elephant gift exchange was taking place. There I learned a great lesson about attachment and greed.

If you’ve never been to a white elephant gift exchange, the way it works is everybody brings a wrapped gift and gets a number. When it’s your turn, you get to examine all the gifts everyone with a lower number than you has already opened. If someone has a gift that you want, you’re allowed to take what they have – or you may go to the front and unwrap some other mysterious present to keep. Of course, if someone with a higher number than you fancies the gift you selected, they can take it from you once it’s their turn.

In ten minutes at this party, I went from bored to excited to happy to distraught.

3:40 pm
I am kind of bored, waiting for my turn, and nothing is striking my eye. But then, Al opens up a Ken doll (from Ken and Barbie), dressed like Professor Henry Higgins. Immediately I realize, I need this doll. I’m gonna take it from him, wrap it up, give it to my brother-in-law Bob as a gift, and it will be awesome.

3:45 pm
My turn. I walk to Al, take the Ken doll from his hands, and sit down. Victory is in my hands.

3:50 pm
Erin, who has a higher number than I did, comes over and takes the Ken doll from me! I am devastated.

When I had it, I was happy!
Now that I’d just lost it, I was upset.


On the bright side, while all of this was happening, I realized this was a microcosm of attachment. This sort of thing happens in our lives all the time. We are bored, we see something “shiny,” we want it, we desperately crave ownership of it — for a moment we are happy — then once we have it, we’re scared to lose it, and distraught when we do.

If it can be true with a Professor Henry Higgins Ken doll that I really didn’t even care about, it can be all the more so with something I actually do care about. My car. My favorite sweater. My dear friends. My relationships with others.

How attached we are to so many things! We consider them to be a part of us. Especially our precious sense of self.

The Buddha said attachment is our biggest problem and our biggest attachment is our sense of self.

Spiritual-religious advice:

Try not to be so attached.

With love,

i best

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