Jan 29, 2013

Four perspectives on loss

Hello, friends. It's January and it feels like about seventy degrees below outside. Unless I have to go to work or do errands, I've pretty much retreated indoors to read, cook, and think. I wanted to show you a few of the things I've been mulling over.

Often when I'm doing nothing in particular, I think to myself, "I won't remember this moment next week, or next month, or next year. I won't even remember thinking about forgetting. Everything about this moment will be erased." For some reason it makes me think about loss, and it also helps me put things in perspective by thinking about what matters and what doesn't.

Maurice Sendak talked about loss in a September 2011 interview with Terry Gross on NPR. He was 83 at the time, and died just eight months later.  
“I am in love with the world. As I look right now as we speak together out my window of my studio, I see my trees, my beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old. They are beautiful. I can see how beautiful they are, I can take time to see how beautiful they are. It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music...I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more.” 
Poet Adrienne Rich suggested that loss can light a fire under our creative impulses.
Behind all art is an element of desire. … Love of life, of existence, love of another human being, love of human beings is in some way behind all art — even the most angry, even the darkest, even the most grief-stricken, and even the most embittered art has that element somewhere behind it. Because how could you be so despairing, so embittered, if you had not had something you loved that you lost?
Last week on Q, I caught Torquil Campbell delivering a passionate call to embrace the state of losing, captured at the very end of the Q podcast.
"We win alone, but we lose together. There can only be one winner in any situation, but we lose together with the rest of those who lose. I think that one of life's truisms is that every single life ends in loss. Every career, every love affair, every relationship we form will end in us losing it, and having to let it go....losing things, having to let go, is a constant in life, and it's one that demands strength, and demands positivity, and discipline. Throughout your life, what you lose and who you lose and what you don't achieve, defines you as much as, or more than what you win...Most of the great works of art in the history of the world are about things not working out. And the reason for that, I think, is that we all understand the truth of that."
Thinker-writer-philosopher Alain de Botton talks here about careers, success and the pros and cons of meritocracy. He also has some neat things to say about events in life that are (sometimes) beyond our control...
“In the Middle Ages, in England, when you met a very poor person, that person would be described as an unfortunate. Literally, someone who had not been blessed by fortune. Nowadays, particularly in the United States, if you meet someone at the bottom of society they may unkindly be described as a "loser." There’s a real difference between an unfortunate and a loser, and that shows 400 years of evolution in society and our belief in who is responsible for our lives.”
....and how it is possible to fail but to gain something from failure:
“Is there any alternative to this? I think the Western tradition shows us one glorious alternative, and that is tragedy. Tragic art, as it developed in the theatres of ancient Greece in the fifth century BC was essentially an art form devoted to tracing how people fail and also according them a level of sympathy which ordinary life would not normally accord them...It would be insane to call Hamlet a loser. He is not a loser, though he has lost.”
Anyway, this post is getting away from me, so I'll just wrap it up here with the last thing Maurice Sendak said in that earlier interview. It's very sweet and probably appropriate: 
“I wish you all good things. Live your life, live your life, live your life.”

No comments:

Post a Comment