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EPISODE 218

Just how “effective” are collective expressions of grief? Do they work?

Every time I see a vast concourse of people gathered at the site of a massacre, I honestly “feel with” the grief; and yet remain a little skeptical. It’s one thing if you yourself lost someone you love as a result of the crime; or if you know someone that lost someone. It’s another thing if you are grieving by association or in relation to a category or collective identity.

Do you think you’ll be thinking about instances of collective loss that took place in your life, when you are dying? I wonder. I know you’ll be thinking about instances of personal loss that you suffered.

This podcast asks you to consider “exiting from history” (Milan Kundera) in order, well, to really live. Focus on the individual instance — on you, in other words! I cite the novels of Rider Haggard in this connection, who understood as well as almost anyone the persistence of the eternal in the life of the individual. There’s the rub, and there’s why Haggard’s “Zulu” novels are a kind of summit of racial reconciliation in English literature. These novels understand human beings as one, due to shared suffering, shared loss, and the shared aspiration to love and be loved. I wish Haggard were here today to write about Orlando.

Oh, and listen closely, if you can, to Dave Loggins at the end. Loggins said that after he wrote the song — in one night — he realized he hadn’t written it. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew it didn’t come from him.