“When you love, the world becomes larger.” – Eric Fromm
Some try to placate her by wearing traditional black and whispering kind condolences. Others attempt bribery, offering her cold noodle casseroles, quivering jello and meringue pies shaped like the Dakota Badlands. The orderly even adopt rules, demanding that she depart after thirty days, six months or a year. But Grief ignores traditions, bribes and orders, and if she ever played poker, she would cheat.
When I first met Grief, she was an unwelcome stranger. But she’s become my adopted, even if eccentric, sister. It’s been several years since she last claimed a place on my couch, but she’s never far away. I catch her scent as I pass the carcass of a pregnant deer on the highway. I feel her as white supremacists unfurl swastikas and chant “Blood and Soil” on American streets. I watch as her shadow darkens the neon lights of Las Vegas and rain made from bullets strikes down fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
And I know that Grief will again push her way through my own door, bringing with her DVDs of nuclear holocaust and squealing babies and snacks of cayenne-spiced popcorn and ghost peppers. She’ll pull out her knock-off Stradivarius and play tear jerkers by Brahms, Beethoven and Barber until even the neighborhood jays mimic her mournful notes. But this time I won’t hurry her visit because I’ve finally learned to hear the beauty of her strings.
Grief, like no other, can strip away the trivial, the mundane and the socially acceptable until nothing remains but the raw and powerful truth of love. She reminds me of all that we have to be grateful for on this tiny blue planet called Earth, and of all that we stand to lose when we trade empathy for indifference, malignant egotism and brutal forms of tribalism. She reminds me that there is only one true remedy for love. And that, to quote Thoreau, is to love more.
And so I begin this blog, For Love of Earth, and dedicate to my friend and former professor Harald Alexander Becker. He was a brilliant, funny and compassionate man who devoted his life to his students. And on the day that he died Grief was waiting for us, suitcase in hand, in her swirling cloud of shattered glass.
Painting by Vincent Van Gogh.