“It’s probably wise to bury losses” was a remark I made to myself a week or so ago. Careless, perhaps, a too-cavalier, throwaway approach to something that deserves to be taken more seriously. After further reflection I came to realise that loss is not like a paper napkin, discarded after use, it is a panorama of unfolding that has defined us all – a vast data set – where does one begin to catalogue what we have lost? Relationships, love, career, opportunities, youthful good looks, loved ones through the inevitable visitation of death. The scenery of life continually changes, like watching from the window of a train. In order to keep our emotional footing we are blessed with two gifts. Memory allows us to look back and recall wisps of sensory information, half-grasped and poorly held as we reach out to touch, to hear, see and smell vaporous ephemera of who and what really was, blurred by time. Anticipation allows us to imagine and peer into the nebulous cloud of space between the present and the horizon, filled with possibility. Rewind and forward buttons; they’re the only two that work. If we can’t bury losses we may do well to box them up, tie them with a bow, and archive them in places only we allow ourselves to go.
And what then about the loneliness of the journey? Life is full of small comings and goings, some leading us far from the place we call home and into spaces about which we know nothing, but we can only imagine and hope, hope for the best. And why possibly our greatest human need is to feel understood and cherished by and relevant to at least one other person on the planet. Without that, we are horribly, dangerously alone in the darkness where the lost gibber and moan.
One of our greatest fears is of being forgotten and irrelevant, hence the human need to connect. The need to share memories of the past and visions for the future, the pain and the joy, the ridiculous and the sublime. We look and touch and listen so as to create a virtual reality, a hologram that we can walk around, rosily familiar and warm, an image of another in our mind for future reference. We need to interact because we need to learn the choreography of altruism and where we can spend the spiritual currency of friendship, loyalty and love that redeems our solitude. Subconsciously it all gets stored away for anticipated change and loss.
We spend our lives trying to discern where we end and the rest of the world begins. There is a strange sorrow to this, to being a creature that carries its fragile sense of self on an endless tearful pilgrimage to some promised land of belonging. We are willing to erect many defences, marmoset-like, to hedge against the emptiness and buttress our fragility. But every once in a while, we encounter another such creature who reminds us with a persistent yet undemanding affection that we need not walk alone and there is joy in the journey.