Friday, April 21, 2017

#SOL17: The Soul of the Whole

The Familiar Falling Away (M.A. Reilly, 2011)

In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters down, if you drop with them farther over the world's rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power of evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned. 
—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk 


For the last few days, I have felt pummeled each time I become aware--almost as if it is new knowledge--that Rob is dead.  It comes upon me frequently for there are a million reminders of Rob and these also are reminders that he is no longer alive.  I will be painting and a particular color triggers a memory of Rob's last moments before death. Or I pick up a magazine and on the cover is a quote by Haruki Murakami, Rob's last favorite author. Or I am out walking and I see a cardinal and it reminds me of the weeks after Rob's death when I would see a lone cardinal winging in and out of our yard. The memories are brief punctures that come on and end with a quickness that in itself is unsettling.

There are more ways of knowing grief than a widow could count.


Acceptance seems like a simple concept. Something is acknowledged and it is then accepted.  Yet how we think a thing into existence requires its own acceptance and is dependent upon the specific language used.

Language changes everything.


Rob is dead is different than Rob has died. And these are different from Rob is no longer alive or Devon's dad has died. And all of these statements are different from Another spring has come and Rob is still gone. 

The more ways we name, the more ways we need to accept.


These language moments reveal the disorder that is usually so well hidden.  And yet, within all that disorder, one constant remains--one unified field: our capacity and need and willingness to care for one another leads us to create and recreate ourselves.

And all of this: the languaging, caring, the unified field--are other names for soul.


There is something holy in this journey. Something much larger than myself. Something that connects me to you and to those who have come before us and will come after us. Emerson called it an Over-Soul. He wrote that within us "is the soul of the whole; the wise silence" (from here). Patti Smith in a recent interview names this unified field as well.  In speaking about death, she says,

All these people that we lose, and this is what I mean by experience, they're all within us. They become part of our DNA. They become part of our blood...and I feel them within me. If we keep ourselves open, they will come. The Italian filmmaker Pasolini said, 'It isn't that the dead don't speak, it's just that we forget how to listen.'



  1. The stark reality comes in blips. I can't take much more. Intellectually I know...yet my heart lags behind a bit in understanding...fully....all the time. I am open and I am listening.....

    1. My daughter just sent me this link....I thought you might like to read this and how this widower put together a sweet remembrance.


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