/ Philosophy

Wisdom and Wonder at Quietus

I've been wanting to write about this for a while now. I've been trying to find the right words, the right approach. I've missed putting words into the world, but I've felt empty and hollowed out.

I've been learning how to grieve.

So it seems fitting to me, that I should return to words at this time of the year. The Elder has come and given us his wisdom, and he begins to transition from this season as the Youth comes again to find Wonder in the burgeoning newness of the world.

It's not as thought I have never lost before. But recently I have lost more, and more often, then ever before in my life. I have lost dearly held beliefs about myself and the world around me. I have lost a parent and seen anothers health decline rapidly. I have lost part of my identity and part of my community. I have lost some hope for my society and some confidence in my power to change.

And so I am acquainted with deep, enduring, crushing, soul-numbing grief for the first time in my life. And I have learned many things about it, some of which might be well shared at this point of transition.

Wisdom is knowing that everything must pass and accepting this.

Wonder is realizing that when one thing passes, something new arises.

In the Brotherhood we speak of the Elder as the majestic king, the lord who has walked all paths in life and gathered the wisdom of those journies. We listen to him speak of legacy, of what it is we leave behind when we go. And we hear him speak of the need to share our wisdom, to stand up and lead, to organize and fight, and to offer our own blood as sacrifice to a cause that is right and just.

The Elder is the God of dying, but he does not help us grieve. He teaches us how to die, but not how to live.

It is the Youth, the God of living that teaches us how to grieve. Because grieving is never easy. It is never the same twice. It is never what you expect or prepare for. No matter how many books you read or how many times you've been through it, it is never the same. And the only way out is through. There are no shortcuts or escape hatches. The Youth teaches us to be able to embrace the unexpected, even the unpleasant unexpected.

When we experience loss, we think about what we have lost. I often find myself thinking that I will never play four-handed Pinochle with my parents and my brother again. I won't have another opportunity to argue with my father about politics or to surprise him with some skill or ability I've picked up. We think about this hole that now exists in our lives, whether we've lost a person, a belief, a career, a pet, or a relationship. And it's right to honor that loss. That honor is part of wonder.

We think of wonder as this positive, joyous experience of what is new and beautiful. But we are just as likely to experience new painful things as we are to experience new pleasant things. The gift of wonder is the space we need to experience this newness. This new absence of a person in my life. This new certainty that I can't continue as I've been going. This new self-doubt and sense of mortality.

People always talk about the stages of grief, and the need to move through them whether that is in order or in some chaotic dance of distress. I don't dislike the stages model, but I think that there is a suggestion that we reach a point where we are no longer grieving. And I don't think that's real. As with the yarn about throwing a rock into a pond, the loss never goes away. The thrashings and struggles of grief fade in time. They become less frequent and less apparent. But years or decades from now, I may be playing pinochle and become overwhelmed with grief.

Wonder teaches us to honor that loss whenever we are reminded of it, just as it teaches us to honor the sunrise or sunset even though another will come tomorrow.