Sunday, June 10, 2012
Loss and the Prison of Time
We call it loss, and yet it hurts -- so it ain't lost yet.
Towards the very end of his life, Frank Zappa gave an interview for one of those morning tv shows -- "Today" or "Yesterday" or "Not Yet," whatever it was called. By this time he was very sick and the interviewer was trying to draw some concluding statements from him about his career, his music, life itself. She got around to asking him how he wanted to be remembered and he said, "It's not important. It's not important to be remembered. I don't care."
For someone with so little energy, he was wielding a sharp sword indeed.
Why do we remember people? Why do we miss them? That is an instructive thing to study closely, but it has nothing to do with them. Why do we love who we love? Why do we miss absent friends? Why does a loss come back and sting us years after the event. How do people and events get to be here and yet not be here at the same time? That's something we're doing.
In one of Seneca's letters, he reports that he was doing a little "reconnaissance" and reading Epicurus, and came across a statement by the latter that a "cheerful poverty" is a good state of mind. Seneca checked this statement, saying, "If it's cheerful it isn't poverty." You're only poor when you are hankering. He goes on to suggest that having what is essential, and then having what is enough, is the appropriate measure of wealth.
In these statements, Zappa and Seneca both destroy time. And it seems to me that the notion of time and being subject to it is involved in most of my sorrows and dreads. I want the person I knew -- but that person is neither absent nor present. Absent is not yet gone. Gone is just gone. Not here, not absent. The sword cuts cleanly.
What is essential about that person or relationship or whatever thing that's on my mind -- love, inspiration, courage? Those are things we do, they don't happen to us. We can lose someone we love and still love. We can lose an inspiring situation and keep doing what we learned to do while we were there. What is really essential can't be taken away.
My sword is not always so sharp. It cuts yet there is loss.