On Grieving – The Geography of Sorrow

I just encountered this wonderful interview of Francis Weller about navigating loss, by Tim McKee, titled “The Geography of Sorry.

Here’s an excerpt:

Weller: We are living in what writer and cultural critic Daniel Quinn calls the Great Forgetting. Many of us have forgotten that we’re a part of an ecosystem, a watershed. We’ve forgotten that we’re kin to all the other animals. We’ve forgotten that we need each other. We have forgotten what I call the “commons of the soul.”

For thousands of years we were nourished by being members of a community, gathering around the fire, hearing the stories of the elders, feeling supported during times of loss and grief, offering gratitude, singing together, sharing meals at night and our dreams in the morning. I call these activities “primary satisfactions.” We are hard-wired to want them, but few of us receive them. In their absence we turn to secondary satisfactions: rank, privilege, wealth, status — or, on the shadow side, addictions. The problem with these secondary satisfactions is that we can never get enough of them. We always want more. But once we find our primary satisfactions, we don’t want much else.

Though primary satisfactions are rare in our culture, we do experience them. We can remember what that felt like and let our longing for that state become our compass, telling us what direction we need to go to get back to those satisfactions. We can find them through our friendships, by spending time in nature, by risking being vulnerable with someone we trust.

McKee: A minute ago you spoke of the “soul.” How do you define that word?

Weller: I don’t use soul in a religious sense but rather the way psychologists Carl Jung and James Hillman and the Romantic poets like Keats, Wordsworth, and Blake use it: to speak of the experience of depth in our lives. Soul invites the marginal, the excluded, and the unwelcome pieces of ourselves into our attention. Soul is often found at the edges, both in the culture and in our lives. Soul takes us down into the places of our shared humanity, such as sorrow and longing, suffering and death. Soul requires that we be authentic, revealing what lies behind the image we try to show the world, including our flaws and peculiarities. Soul doesn’t care at all about perfection or getting it right. It cares about participation. Soul is revealed in dreams and images, in our most intimate conversations, and in our desire to live a life of meaning and purpose.