Posts Tagged sorrow

His lingering scent

We howled when they came and took Al for a walk, and not us. Later we heard their car returning but Al was not back from his walk. They came to pat and stroke us, and we felt a great sadness in their stroke, which made us feel uncomfortable. I felt wet drops of rain on my coat even though there was no rain. Where was Al?

Later at supper time, as I eagerly awaited my bowl, and ate quickly in case Al made a charge for my food, I noticed that Al was still not back. That night I curled up with mum without having to fight for my place. During the night mum became restless and started to bark at every shadow. Al was always the one who would go and see if everything was alright. They kept coming out to stroke us with the same sadness in their stroke and their words. Where was Al?

We sniffed his trial of scent to find him but each time it led to the gate. We kept picking up his scent for many days as it grew fainter. As long as his scent remained, we wondered when he would return. Where was he? Any time now he will come storming and jumping in wild abandon. In time the last trails of his lingering scent disappeared too. All that remained of his scent were my memories. In the dark of the nights I often caught a familiar scent and I moved to make a space for him.


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Changing and Boundaries – Meme

 I once heard an old man say, “Happiness is for children.” The question that arises for me, “why is happiness so elusive?” When do we feel happy? We feel happy when we feel loved. We feel happy when what we are doing connects us with our core passion. Each one of us have a unique core passion which, if we follow it, will lead to our individual purpose.Our core passion is what we live as young children. As children we have not yet been taught that “You can’t do that…” I read once that someone said that the reason it is up to young people to bring new ways of thinking, new ways doing, new inventions, is because they do not know what is not possible. As we grow older we experience failures, we come up against the dead ends and we become disillusioned. Our experiences seem to teach us that to connect to our passion brings trouble, because it always involves bringing change, and the bringer of change is feared by the conditioned world. We are afraid of change, yet change is life. When something stops evolving it faces extinction.

From what I have observed the pattern of growth is the same in all cycles of life. It involves the initial birth, “Big Bang”, a period of growth and development, a peak of the particular cycle, then a period of transition, where that which is, is not yet what it is to become. It is a period of uncertainty, confusion, because it is not a rational state. It is a feeling period, Everyone knows that you cannot speak rationally to an angry person, or for that matter with anyone who is madly in love. A particular feeling reaches its peak, then declines into release, which is often experienced by as a depression, and a feeling of inertia. In this period of inertia, relaxation, is sown the next cycle’s seed which surfaces in the period of clear thinking that always follows the period of inertia.

Buildup, release, relaxation. It is also found in the spiritual pattern of what is called the “In and out breath of Brahma”.

The out-breath and in-breath of God could be likened to the swing of a pendulum. As the pendulum swing reaches its uppermost apex, there is a moment of complete rest before it continues its movement in the opposite direction. This moment of rest and lack of movement in God’s breathing is a moment of non-time, of eternity. Since the microcosm is like the macrocosm, this same process occurs many times each second as atoms of the physical world vibrate back and forth.”

The same is also experienced in the Dark Night of the soul. In creative work the same is also experienced where the bright idea is born out of the confusion, the chaos of possibilities. Everywhere you see this pattern, this cycle of life. This is the pattern, the cycle of life.

Most of us enter our adult lives in search for happiness. What that means to each of us, is uniquely individual. We must however realize that happiness is just like any other cycle that goes through the buildup, peak, decline and breakthrough. The time of each cycle is of course unique to each specific cycle and in the case of emotions, unique to each individual. The bliss you experience for example, at the beginning of a relationship will not last, and it is simply natural, not good or bad. If a relationship does not go through the natural cycle there would be no growth for the relationship or the individuals concerned, and the deeper bonding will not occur either. How long each phase lasts, is also unique to each relationship.

It is an illusion to think it is possible “to be happy for ever after.” This is where disillusionment and cynic approach is born. There is beauty and purpose in each of the seasons, it is just that we are taught, brainwashed, to strive only for eternal spring. In the world in which we live, the majority of people have no true understanding of the cycles of growth. There is despair when we reach the peak and face decline. Our expectations are unnatural, but at the same time it is only natural to feel a sadness when one cycle ends, and that we suppress too.

See Age of Grief

We are taught to suppress our sadness, cover it up with anger because somehow anger is considered less of a weakness than sadness. People feel uncomfortable with the sadness of others. What most people do not realize, is that to suppress our emotions, lead to irrational behavior. Behavior and emotions are separate. It took me a long time to understand that I cannot control my feelings, it has to cycle through the phases, we can however control our thoughts and behavior. When we do not release our emotions, it will be released through our shadow behavior. For example in each family unit certain emotions are o.k, and others are not. So to release the forbidden emotions, we would for example cover up our emotions by angry behavior, ” because anger in our family was o.k but sadness was not.”

Why each family has its own unique fences of what emotions are allowed and what is not, I believe a study of family history will reveal. In my case, I come from an Afrikaner family. It was o.k to show anger but we were taught not to show sadness, to stand resolute in the face of sorrow. In times of sorrow the black humor would appear. Tears swallowed as quickly as possible. I understand now where it came from.

In his remarkable novel Vatmaar (take it then), based on stories told by the people of a coloured community on the platteland (rural area), AHM Scholtz writes of how the villages were hired to burn the Boer farmhouses, and how one old ouma (grandma) went back to fetch the family Bible from her burning home; ‘She came out of the house with the Book high above her head … Then the ouma turned into one huge flame, her dress was burnt out and her bonnet was the last to catch fire, and we looked at that face. Not a tear came out of those eyes or a sound from her mouth…’ Later, as her pregnant daughter rolled the old woman into her grave, she remained dry-eyed, then ‘turned round to face the Queen’s men and spat at them.”

During times of war such behavior may be admirable, but in normal living you will eventually pay the price of not letting your sorrow run its full course. It is so important to be constantly reviewing your feelings boundaries, so that it does not become simply an unconscious reaction.

In the book Hanta Yo, the lead character is the tribal chief.” After the deaths of his family, he must go into a special tepee, where he is given food and water. He must stay there until he weeps deeply and grieves his loss. This is a traditional ritual of the tribe, because they know the danger of having a leader on a field of battle who has not fully grieved an important loss. He will seek revenge because of his anger, and do something stupid that puts the tribe or himself at risk. We see examples throughout our culture of revenge behavior stemming from unresolved grief – excessive work, excessive play, excessive drugs, excessive sex, excessive material consumption, excessive alcohol, excessive food. Our homes need to be ‘special tepees’ where our sons and our men are allowed to grieve; to feel all of their emotions fully; to learn to consciously choose behavior that is life-affirming, rather than life-negative; to use the inner guidance system as a source of wisdom, power, and inner nurturing.” Don and Jeanne Elium

This shadow behavior confuses our inborn inner guidance system, that emotions in a normal cycle would reveal during the clear thinking phase. When we trust our feelings, we are in touch with the reality of our experience, then we can use our own values to direct our lives, rather than being swayed by the thoughts and actions of others. When we feel happy and alive, it reveals that we are aligned with our purpose in life.

We can control our thoughts by becoming aware of what we think, and by understanding why. Unconscious thoughts leads to unconscious behaviour. By being in control of our thoughts we can become in control of our behaviour. I say control not suppress. We all need fences, but they should be rational fences, not unconscious conditioned fences. Without personal fences we will have no personal identity.Ultimately our fences should be a positive fence of co-operation. We must acknowledge our feelings of anger for example, but if we know that we are going to hurt others through our anger, it is our responsibility to find a safe outlet for it, until we enter the clear thinking zone again.

Overwhelm me winds
of change
Blow, batter,
bring your might.
Will I still remain me
when all that I knew
is gone and come
and gone again?
I a lonely pole
in the ocean of eternity,


Me meme me
What am I?

Should I submit?
Search no more?
Live like a plant
Searching for its place in the sun
And leave its legacy for the next generation?

It knows its meaning
And its purpose
Am I less than
A plant?

In the darkness of my despair I lay inert
I cannot give up
I cannot except the only failure
That of giving up
Have I not always found another way?
Why will it be any different now to then?

Again hope kindles in my breast
And in my still core
I know there still lies
something beautiful unborn.

From the Ashes – Stephanie Pui-Mun Law


The term “meme” ([miːm] in the IPA; rhymes with “dream”), derived from the Greek word mimema, “something imitated,” often refers to a piece of information passed from one mind to another. The term first came into popular use with the publication of the book The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins in 1976, and the conceptual framework of memes borrows from the study of genes — the units of biological transmission. Historically, the notion of a unit of social evolution, and a similar term (from Greek mneme, ‘memory’), first appeared in 1904 in a work by the German evolutionary biologist Richard Semon: Die Mnemische Empfindungen in ihren Beziehungen zu den Originalenempfindungen, translated into English in 1921 as The Mneme.

By analogy with genetics, a meme passes from generation to generation via family and cultural traditions or training rather than via sexual reproduction, with occasional “mutations.” Another common usage of the term “meme” relates closely to academic study of folklore and the informal communication of cultural information, in which memes fit into an analogy of “language as a virus.”

“What is a meme?”

Glenn Grant: Meme (pron. meem): A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by analogy with “gene”.) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic.

Tony Lezard: Richard Dawkins, who coined the word in his book The Selfish Gene defines the meme as simply a unit of intellectual or cultural information that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which can pass from mind to mind. There’s not much of a sense of describing thought processes, but nor is it just a model. As Richard Dawkins writes (this is from memory), “God indeed exists, if only as a pattern in brain structures replicated across the minds of billions of people throughout the world.” (Of course the patterns aren’t physically identical, but they represent the same thing.)

Richard Dawkins: Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leading from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.
Memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind, you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn’t just a way of talking — the meme for, say, ‘belief in life after death’ is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of people all over the world.

H. Keith Henson: A meme survives in the world because people pass it on to other people, either vertically to the next generation, or horizontally to our fellows. This process is analogous to the way willow genes cause willow trees to spread them, or perhaps closer to the way cold viruses make us sneeze and spread them.

Peter J. Vajk: It is important to note here that, in contrast to genes, memes are not encoded in any universal code within our brains or in human culture. The meme for vanishing point perspective in two-dimensional art, for example, which first appeared in the sixteenth century, can be encoded and transmitted in German, English or Chinese; it can be described in words, or in algebraic equations, or in line drawings. Nonetheless, in any of these forms, the meme can be transmitted, resulting in a certain recognizable element of realism which appears only in art works executed by artists infected with this meme.

Heith Michael Rezabek: My favorite example of a crucial meme would be “fire” or more importantly, “how to make a fire.” This is a behavioral meme, mind you, one which didn’t necessarily need a word attached to it to spring up and spread, merely a demonstration for another to follow. Once the meme was out there, it would have spread like wildfire, for obvious reasons… But when you start to think of memes like that — behavioral memes — then you can begin to see how language itself, the idea of language, was a meme. Writing was a meme. And within those areas, more specific memes emerged.

Lee Borkman: Memes, like genes, vary in their fitness to survive in the environment of human intellect. Some reproduce like bunnies, but are very short-lived (fashions), while others are slow to reproduce, but hang around for eons (religions, perhaps?). Note that the fitness of the meme is not necessarily related to the fitness that it confers upon the human being who holds it. The most obvious example of this is the “Smoking is Cool” meme, which does very well for itself while killing off its hosts at a great rate.

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Medusa’s Mask


 Within the gentle glow of Lady Dawn
arms raised in salutation
Solemnly I made my Vow

A hunger burns inside me
I desire to know,
Spirit of truth
shine your light
illuminate my ignorance

I desire it with all of my
Purify me
Prepare me

The Lady of Sorrow
Stood before me
Infinitely dark radiant eyes

I see your fervor abate somewhat at the sight of me
Are you not glad to see me?

My Lady, with respect, even brave men’s hearts quiver at the sight of thee.

 Did you not ask to see the light of truth?
Am I not the sister of joy?
Where joy is, there I am too.
Can one exist without the other?
To know the Bliss of Between
You must know both the depth of joy
and the depth of sorrow

Do you know the meaning of your Vow?
She asked tenderly

The hunger burns
consequences unknown

 She held out to me
a flower of such exquisite beauty
the like of which never I did see

A yearning stirs
to know
the depths of it’s scent
to inhale the intoxicating fragrance

 The Lady ‘s dark hem touched my heart
and I shivered

Dare you inhale
its fragrance?
Konx om Pax
Beware who dares

A cold fever seized me
Hot and cold sweeps
in and out
of me
each battling for possession

in feverish dreams
of joy and sorrow

The Medusa wandering
in lonely eons of exile
as each heart turned to stone
who dared to look

In her sorrow and anger
she did not see him coming
A flash of light and sword
A moment’s chilling glimpse
of her own monstrous face
before the dark stillness

I awoke in the arms of my Beloved.
He caressed my brow with infinite tenderness

 Love is the light of truth
He said simply,
and smiled

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Age of Grief

John Zerzan

A pervasive sense of loss and unease envelops us, a cultural sadness that can justly be compared to the individual who suffers a personal bereavement.

A hyper-technologized late capitalism is steadily effacing the living texture of existence, as the world’s biggest die-off in 50 million years proceeds apace: 50,000 plant and animal species disappear each year (World Wildlife Fund, 1996).

Our grieving takes the form of postmodern exhaustion, with its wasting diet of an anxious, ever-shifting relativism, and that attachment to surface that fears connecting with the fact of staggering loss. The fatal emptiness of ironized consumerism is marked by a loss of energy, difficulty in concentrating, feelings of apathy, social withdrawal; precisely those enumerated in the psychological literature of mourning.

The falsity of postmodernism consists in its denial of loss, the refusal to mourn. Devoid of hope or vision for the future, the reigning zeitgeist also cuts off, very explicitly, an understanding of what has happened and why. There is a ban on thinking about origins, which is companion to an insistence on the superficial, the fleeting, the ungrounded.

Parallels between individual grief and a desolate, grieving common sphere are often striking. Consider the following from therapist Kenneth Doka (1989): “Disenfranchised grief can be defined as the grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported.” Denial on an individual level provides an inescapable metaphor for denial at large; personal denial, so often thoroughly understandable, introduces the question of refusal to come to grips with the crisis occurring at every level.

Ushering in the millennium are voices whose trademark is opposition to narrative itself, escape from any kind of closure. The modernist project at least made room for the apocalyptic; now we are expected to hover forever in a world of surfaces and simulation that ensure the “erasure” of the real world and the dispersal of both the self and the social. Baudrillard is of course emblematic of the “end of the end,” based on his prefigured “extermination of meaning.”

We may turn again to the psychological literature for apt description. Deutsch (1937) examined the absence of expressions of grief that occur following some bereavements and considered this a defensive attempt of the ego to preserve itself in the face of overwhelming anxiety. Fenichel (1945) observed that grief is at first experienced only in very small doses; if it were released full-strength, the subject would feel overwhelming despair. Similarly, Grimspoon (1964) noted that “people cannot risk being overwhelmed by the anxiety which might accompany a full cognitive and affective grasp of the present world situation and its implications for the future.”

With these counsels and cautions in mind, it is nonetheless obvious that loss must be faced. All the more so in the realm of social existence, where in distinction to, say, the death of a loved one, a crisis of monumental proportions might be turned toward a transformative solution, if no longer denied. Repression, most clearly and presently practised via postmodern fragmentation and superficiality. does not extinguish the problem. “The repressed,” according to Bollas (1995) “signifies the preserved: hidden away in the organized tensions of the unconscious, wishes and their memories are ceaselessly struggling to find some way into gratification in the present — desire refutes annihilation.”

Grief is the thwarting and deadening of desire and very much resembles depression; in fact, many depressions are precipitated by losses (Klerman, 1981). Both grief and depression may have anger at their root; consider, for example, the cultural association of black with grief and mourning and with anger, as in “black rage.”

Traditionally, grief has been seen as giving rise to cancer. A contemporary variation on this thesis is Norman Mailer’s notion that cancer is the unhealthiness of a deranged society, turned inward, bridging the personal and public spheres. Again, a likely connection among grief, depression, and anger — and testimony, I think, to massive repression. Signs abound concerning weakening immune defenses; along with increasing material toxins, there seems to be a rising level of grief and its concomitants. When meaning and desire are too painful, too unpromising to admit or pursue, the accumulating results only add to the catastrophe now unfolding.

To look at narcissism, today’s bellwether profile of character, is to see suffering as an ensemble of more and more closely related aspects. Lasch (1979) wrote of such characteristic traits of the narcissistic personality as an inability to feel, protective shallowness, increased repressed hostility, and a sense of unreality and emptiness. Thus, narcissism too could be subsumed under the heading of grief, and the larger suggestion arises with perhaps greater force: there is something profoundly wrong, something at the heart of all this sorrow, however much it is commonly labelled under various separate categories.

In a 1917 exploration, “Mourning and Melancholia,” a puzzled Freud asked why the memory of “each single one of the memories and hopes” that is connected to the lost loved one “should be so extraordinarily painful.” But tears of grief, it is said, are at base tears for oneself. The intense sorrow at a personal loss, tragic and difficult as it most certainly is, may be in some way also a vulnerability to sorrow over a more general, trans-species loss.

Walter Benjamin wrote his “Theses on History” a few months before his premature death in 1940 at a sealed frontier that prevented escape from the Nazis. Breaking the constraints of marxism and literariness, Benjamin achieved a high point of critical thinking. He saw that civilization, from its origin, is that storm evacuating Eden, saw that progress is an single, ongoing catastrophe.

Alienation and anguish were once largely, if not entirely, unknown. Today the rate of serious depression, for example, doubles roughly every ten years in the developed nations (Wright, 1995).

As Peter Homans (1984) put it very ably, “Mourning does not destroy the past — it reopens relations with it and with the communities of the past.” Authentic grieving poses the opportunity to understand what has been lost and why, also to demand the recovery of an innocent state of being, wherein needless loss is banished.

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