“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.
Grief isn’t always visible, but she’s never far away. I catch her scent when 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 see her when a man hefts a bumped-up semi-automatic rifle and blows away fathers, mothers, daughters and sons with a flick of his finger.
And I know she’ll soon be at my own door, arriving with the tools of her trade: DVDs of nuclear holocaust, bags of cayenne-spiced popcorn, hair curlers made from sewing needles and even a knock-off Stradivarius designed to play tear-jerkers by Brahms, Beethoven and Barber. She’ll play her violin until even the jays are mimicking her mournful notes, and I’ll listen because I’ve 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 is left but the raw and powerful truth of love. She reminds me of all that we share on this tiny blue planet called Earth, and of all that we are in danger of losing when we replace empathy with 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 it to my former professor and friend, 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 raining glass.
Cover painting by Vincent Van Gogh