Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'Absent'-minded

Have you ever lost something? Or, had something taken from you? I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives.

‘I’ve lost my keys,’ ‘I can’t find my wallet,’ ‘Have you seen my phone?,’ I can’t remember where I put my glasses,’ are all examples of phrases that most of us use on a fairly regular basis. Because in most instances we’re able to find what we’ve misplaced, the absence of those objects is felt momentarily. It’s when we speak of greater losses that the suffering is increased. Some ‘lose employment,’ some may ‘lose certain freedoms’ as consequences for their actions, and for many of us, we will feel the ‘loss of a loved one’ at some point in our lives.

The subsequent grief often depends on our degree of attachment to what we’ve lost and it can only be offset by the hope of regaining it. That hope, however real or imagined, is the best antidote for grief.

The old cliché rings true, ‘we never really appreciate what we have until it’s gone.’ That’s not to say that what we have goes unappreciated, it is only to say that we don’t understand it’s full value until it is taken from us. We take for granted some of those most basic, and most important, blessings in our lives (e.g. health, food, family & friends, etc.). We assume that because we have those comforts in our lives now, that we will always have them. Unfortunately, and often unexpectedly, ‘the rug is pulled out from underneath us,’ and what we are inevitably left with is the ‘pain of loss.’

Most often when we speak of great loss we refer to the death of a close relative, the separation of children from their parents, divorce, etc. Sadness is not measured in quantity but rather its magnitude is quantified by the depth of sorrow. I do not pretend to know more about grief than anyone else or even to understand another person’s grief, but I am no stranger to it myself.

It is such an interesting emotion. It is as unique as the individual experiencing it. Yet, there are still many similarities. There are those moments when we take deep breath to alleviate the pain, if only momentarily. At first everything reminds us of our loss. If we try hard enough, we can find some abstract connection to the person that we’ve lost in anything and everything. Those moments are bitter sweet.

As time goes on, there may be fewer things to remind us of our loved ones but the things that remain are more powerful than all of the smaller ones combined. Shortly after the rainstorm on Friday night, the sky was probably one of the most beautiful ones that I have ever seen. I had an overwhelming desire to share it with the person who might appreciate it the most only to find that I was no longer able to do so. My grandmother loved clouds and she would have loved that sunset. So, it was left to me to enjoy it for the two of us. I was happy to think of her. I’ve had similar experiences with cheesecake, red mini coopers (with racing stripes), and countless others.

In one of my favorite, wonderfully depressing books, The Plague (Camus), the narrator is speaking of the separation caused by the plague…

’It was undoubtedly the feeling of exile—that sensation of a void within which never left us, that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else speed up the march of time, and those keen shafts of memory stung like fire. Sometimes we toyed with our imagination, composing ourselves to wait for a ring at the bell announcing somebody’s return, or for the sound of a familiar footstep on the stairs; but, though we might deliberately stay at home at the hour when a traveler coming by the evening train would normally have arrived, and though we might contrive to forget for the moment that no trains were running, that game of make-believe, for obvious reasons, could not last. Always a moment came when we had to face the fact that no trains were coming in. And then we realized that the separation was destined to continue, we had no choice but to come to terms with the days ahead. In short, we returned to our prison-house, we had nothing left us but the past, and even if some were tempted to live in the future, they had speedily to abandon the idea—anyhow, as soon as could be—once they felt the wounds that the imagination inflicts on those who yield themselves to it.’

As I said, it’s wonderfully depressing. But, that is the hope that we hold on to…that the separation won’t last. We use those words to comfort those who have had close relatives pass away, ‘you’ll see them again.’ Or, at the very least, we say, ‘they’re in a better place.’ But that does not change the fact that, ‘a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes a time when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.’

If they are in a better place, then it is on our most selfish moments that we desire their return to us. Perhaps that is the hope that we need to hold on to, that they are in a better place, rather than to hope for their return. If we truly love what we have lost then we would want what is best for them however painful it may be for us to accept.

That is when we want to 'speed up the march of time' either to have some reunion, or to at least come to a point where the loss seems less real ('at least until those red-hot irons of memory jab at us') and consequently less painful.

I’m not sure if any of that makes any sense or if it is even coherent…it is late. Those are just thoughts that I’ve had on my mind and, in the absence of a better venue
, I'm using this blog to express them.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'll take the silver any day.
    Lovely post.

    ReplyDelete