Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ramblings on Change and Grief

Grief can be brought about by many specific things, good or bad. A promotion may be just as filled with grief as losing a job. When things change, for whatever reason, we lose something. Often the security that we build around ourselves, the security that says things will always stay just the way they are.

But, as I have spoken about before, those things come along that can be referred to as "Black Swans." These are the unexpected things. Or perhaps things that are expected but not yet, not at this time, not now- it's too inconvenient at the moment. Black Swans are the bane of our comfort and ease, the antidote (though unwanted) for complacency.

One of the more non-death-related grief inducers is age, simply the passing of time. I have posted, for example, those "xx-Year Memories." They serve as incredible reminders of the passage of time for me. Any posts about events since the mid-1950s are prods to my memory, items of remembrance, moments of recalling how long ago some of those things occurred.

The 45-year Memory from Sunday contained one of those life-changing times of awareness for me- the trial of Adolph Eichmann. As only a 13-year old who had just had his Bar Mitzvah can understand, Eichmann, from thousands of miles away shattered my perception of life.

On the global scale The Holocaust was more than a Black Swan, it was a Black Hole into which history has not yet recovered, if it ever can. It devastated, destroyed a way of thinking about humanity that had been a hallmark of western thought since the Renaissance. In one of the most advanced civilizations, civilized civilization, all those advances were turned to evil. Eichmann's arrest and trial sent (and still sends) shivers up my spine.

But in my little corner of the wilderness of northern Pennsylvania, at the same time (November 1961 - February 1962) my mother was in the hospital, dying rather quickly at age 48 of colon cancer.

While never consciously connected in my mind until now, they both served as events that are unexpected, out of left field, Black Swans. Grief and fear, sadness and confusion got wrapped up in that now distant time. It took years of growth and therapy and personal reflection to outgrow the initial pain of the death of my mother. It took years of study and reflection and spiritual searching to come to some personal understanding of The Holocaust, spurred by the intense understanding that such things can and will happen- but we must do everything humanly possible to stop them.

Even on a local level, where things like abuse and hatred can be as personally devastating as the Holocaust was to the world's self-understanding. When faced with protecting the weak, we must be steadfast. When faced with injustice, we must be willing to stand up. When faced with people of fear we must offer an antidote of hope.

Perhaps years of living (also called aging) allows one to see grief and its consequences and then take the time to review what that means. Black Swans like other things, happen. Then we take the time to allow ourselves to work through it. Change is real, we must work through it, not deny it, discover what we can in living through it.

Memories, good and bad, of change can remind us that we can get through the Black Swans.

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