Grieving For a Lost World

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WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE DEEP IN GRIEF

Slip off your needs

and set them by the door.

Enter barefoot

this darkened chapel.

hollowed by loss

hallowed by sorrow

Its grey stone

Walls and floor

You, congregation

of one

are here to listen

not to sing

Kneel in the back pew

Make no sound

Let the candles

Speak.

Patricia McKernon Runkle

“We need to learn once again how to walk and breathe in a sacred universe, to feel this heartbeat of life. Hearing its presence speak to us, we feel this great bond of life that supports and nourishes us all. Today’s world may still at times make us feel lonely, but we can then remember what every animal, every insect, every plant knows — and only we have forgotten: the living sacred whole. — Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

We are still in denial at our time of loss that the world we have known is disappearing. We calmly wait, knowing it will come back just as it was, or else we anxiously try to force it back into its old clothes that already have missing pieces.

When we realize that our world is gone for good, it will be time for grieving. We don’t know how to do that. We’re in the habit of hiding our grief from ourselves. We don’t have good rituals or channels for our grief. We only have pious platitudes and ways of paving it over with distractions.

This event goes beyond personal grief, though. Death is shocking. We see the numbers, we read the stories. Famous people die, we even personally know some who suddenly disappear from the Earth. We are buffeted by stories of failing medical systems. Scientists and doctors seem uncertain how to deal with this kind of plague. Rumors abound, created and propagated by the highest government officials.

We hardly have time to take it all in. Strangely enough, there are folks who refuse to believe any information, who insist upon going forth as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. But grief is waiting for all of us, sooner or later.

The world is taking a big hit, at least on the human level. On other levels it is taking a breather. The animals must be wondering where we went.

This is a huge challenge for a culture such as ours, a culture that hides anything unpleasant, that believes in its ability to conquer nature. We will grieve the loss of our social mechanisms, but we will also grieve the loss of our illusions. We’ve been living in a fairy tale, pushing the destruction and depredations of our way of life out of sight. Suddenly it springs out of the closet, causing us to leap up in a fright. It was always there, even if most of us were unaware we had built the closet ourselves.

Grief is appropriate now. Grief for the people we thought we were. Grief for our lost illusions, for all the suffering we’ve caused ourselves and others, for what we have done to the world, for the lies we have created and believed, for wasted lives in service of indifference and disregard. It’s time to learn how to grieve. We owe that to ourselves and to the world.

It’s a deferred lesson in how to be human. It’s a passage to greater humanity. It’s not an experience we’re going to be able to sidestep much longer. It’s our education in how to live more fully and deeply.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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