Thursday, February 19, 2009
The Point of Life is a Tilde
In the first months of grief, I wrote a poem of sorts that explores the "point of life." "Don't give me a circle, when I asked for a point," I shouted into space. I couldn't find a point to life, but had to reconcile that life continues and so does death, which brings me to a truth about loss. The bereaved as they struggle to make sense, find that concepts once thought to be mutually exclusive, are not, but rather co-exist and perhaps more shocking--are actually co-dependent upon one another. It's not a new concept, but when you live it and feel it and know it intimately, it's mind-blowing and well, quite exhausting.
In casual conversation and academic work, I've encountered Eastern "ying and yang" and Western "circle of life" ideals. And, recently, I encountered a scientific discussion of this phenomenon whereby the researchers posit that polarized concepts can be reconciled and that the symbol for that reconciliation is the tilde ~ or squiggle. The ~ illustrates the complimentary nature of what appears to be opposite ideas and concepts. We have a tendency to see things in pairs and to place each member of that pair in polar opposition to each other. I love the idea that researchers uncovered some evidence that life is more and/both than either/or.
Here are a few and/both points, I mean squiggles, that I've been thinking about: I am in a point in this grief journey where I feel and express joy and sorrow in the same breath. When we organized "Caitlin's Gifts," I did it both selfishly and selflessly. I needed a celebration and acknowledgment of my daughter's first birthday, but in planing her party and gifts, it was at the same time a selfless act of helping parents and children who were experiencing the trauma and stress of caring for a baby in the NICU. Perhaps the most powerful squiggle in my brain is the reconciliation of reason and religion in my life--I no longer have the need to choose a side, as both serve to aid in my healing and making meaning of my child's life and death.
And now for a bit of a non sequitur: I'd like to pass out squiggles to those in political parties for use when they label and stereotype and spew their either/or madness so we can live in a more peaceful and compassionate world.
I have my squiggle and I'm not be afraid to use it! Are you?