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Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed, its own lesson.
 
-Malcolm X

It has been a long, long time since I have written one of these posts…over a year. The last year has been about getting lost and about loss—the challenges and what emerges from these experiences. This post, hopefully the first of a renewed series, honors and harvests some lessons.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, questions, and recommendations and encourage your reflections and ideas around sustainability and social change.


We all have to endure loss, in many forms. Our grieving process is often private, held close…sometimes too rushed. Yet there is a strength in the vulnerability that comes when we experience loss and when we realize that we may be lost.

In one of her many wonderful books, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit muses:

The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration — how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?

I’ve found that loss is absolutely transformative and about exploring unknown territory, and that it may be that in “extending the boundaries of the self” it is to become more ourselves. Loss of any kind, and getting lost, is to experience a sense of disorientation that can help us see what is important and who we truly are.

Whether it is the death of a loved one, the heartbreaking loss of a pivotal election that has consequences for our communities, or the tragic and accelerating disappearance of landscapes, cultural traditions, and species, loss sharpens the definition of who we are and what we value.

If we listen—especially in the midst of a loss when much of the external noise that characterizes our lives is necessarily muted—one can experience a window that brings us not only to sadness, but to gratitude.

From this place, we can shape a renewed commitment to how we want to be and what we want to do. One of my favorite Wendell Berry quotes is about this moment:

When we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work.

And when we no longer know which way to go

we have begun our journey.

The mind that is not baffled

is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Loss—and being lost—takes us away from what we have become accustomed to long enough to ask deeper questions from a different place. In doing so, we create a power in ourselves from confronting obstacles—like that impeded stream—that helps us act and respond in new ways.

Most importantly, I’ve learned and struggled with what it means to feel loss—the sadness and the demarcation it creates in our lives—and then do the best I can to build alternative approaches personally, professionally, and politically that honor what emerges from that experience.

What comes from valuing vulnerability, connection, slowing down, opening up which are so often diminished or demeaned within our culture? Seeds for greater commitment to kindness and understanding, to cultivating community, to being strategic about solutions that can create opportunity for all.

This post is dedicated to my father, Myron Zackman, and to our beloved dogs Roshi and Bubbles, all of whom died in the last 8 months. Their lives brought great inspiration and joy for me and for so many others.

 

 

Thanks

Listen

with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water looking out

in all directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

in a culture up to its chin in shame

living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the back door

and the beatings on the stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks that use us we are saying thank you

with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable

unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us

our lost feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us like earth

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

we are saying thank you and waving

dark though it is.

W. S. Merwin

 

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