I enjoyed listening to many of his commentaries on what was happening on the world stage. I came to appreciate his ‘long view’, and though it wasn’t really a ‘shocking surprise’ to hear of his death…he was 93, after all… still, I watched myself go through an interesting set of thoughts and feelings as I realized how much I would miss his calm, patient style helping me to make sense of troubling news events.
Remembering Daniel Schorr
I appreciated him because he’d seen and lived through so much change and because he was a ‘walking history book’, so often having a historical reference from the past that correlated with something he was reporting on in the present. He’d lived through difficult times in our country and retained his integrity, humor and good will. There was always something reassuring about Mr. Schorr’s commentary, because it affirmed the cyclical nature of things, and the ability of a person to live through and learn from those cycles. It said something about what arises and passes, and what endures.
When I heard the news of his death, I was in my kitchen. I let out an “ohhhh” …just standing there hearing his distinctive voice in my mind. I was stunned, and lost in reverie for a bit. It was announced that there’d be a special broadcast in an hour, so I fixed my dinner in time to sit down and listen.
There were many excerpts of a long interview with him that took place 3 years ago on his 90th birthday. I learned he was nearly arrested for refusing to reveal his sources; that he saw Berlin before, during and after he Wall; he had collaborated with a rock musician he’d never heard of named Frank Zappa, who admired him enough to invite him to speak to his audience, (on stage, at the Warner Theater!) about the importance of voting! And at 92, he was asked ‘what’s lost in using social media like Twitter?’ His reply: “What we lose is editing! The discipline that should go with being able to communicate is gone.” Still, right after that, he turned to Scott Simon and asked, on air, “Ok, how do I do it?”, and gave it a try!
Anyway….by the end of the tribute broadcast, I was crying. I mean I was crying like something broke loose. And I thought “Why am I crying?”… He was 93! He was going to die at some point, sooner than later. I knew it. Everybody knew it. And besides, jeeze, I didn’t even know him!” Well I just gave myself permission to go ahead and cry, because I know by now, that I was doing something useful.
What I was doing was ‘practicing loss’. Last month I wrote about the necessity of loss…now I’m suggesting how we can engage the lessons in the loss…and to do that, first we have to feel the loss. What I’m most interested in here is the ‘first up’ human response when we’re faced with any kind of loss. What do we do? Most often the first thing we do is *cling*. It’s just what we do…it’s one of the oldest “distress recordings” in our minds, and we all have it. It’s like a song that plays, and the title is… “Don’t Go!”
Go Ahead and Cry
Every day, we encounter dozens of opportunities to notice losses…. Something happens that we don’t want or didn’t anticipate, we lose a chance at something, we miss a phone call, we forget an important meeting, we didn’t get the job, or the interview, we don’t make the team, we get ‘bad’ news about our health, our grades, our bank account, our teeth! Every day we’re wading through floodwaters of things coming apart, breaking down, not working out, fading away. Do I sound ‘pessimistic’? I’m not. I’m just reminding myself (and you) of the nature of things as they are.
How often do we see young ones crying about losing something, and some well-meaning adult tries to stop the crying by distracting them with toys, games, food, TV, etc. This teaches us early on to distract ourselves from the pain of loss….and we lose the chance to practice being with one of the deeper lessons of human existence, namely, that everything comes and goes! Nothing lasts forever (not even this article)! What if all these little ‘losses’ are practice sessions for the bigger ones? Of course we ignore lots of these daily losses. It’s practical, as adults, to do this. But it’s good to be aware when the backlog is getting high.
So where am I going with this? Well, when I was sitting there tonight crying about how I won’t have Daniel Schorr’s particular take on things to reassure or amuse me anymore, I was realizing that I was taking an opportunity to let myself feel loss. I was practicing how to be with loss and death. That my backlogged ‘bubble’ of past and anticipated losses was swelling and this one somehow just pressed hard enough to make it burst. So, I had a cry and restored the balance for a while.
This is what I want to say. I think it’s a really good idea for us to go ahead and notice when we feel sadness about losing something, whether it’s a moment of fleeting beauty in the woods or the breaking of a favorite teacup, or the loss of a trusted news analyst. Just feel the feelings, and don’t listen to the voice that says “that’s nothing to cry about”. Go ahead and cry.
The Joy of Feeling
Here’s a story that happened to me once after a long meditation retreat:
I had just broken silence and I was sitting on a large rock near a pond, with another retreatant. We’d taken a walk together, still tentative about speaking, and were taking in the beauty and the stillness of the trees, water, rocks. She took a breath and said “I know that all of this,” (and she gestured to the nature all around) “all of it will someday pass away, will no longer exist. And somehow, I just can’t bear it.”
I was startled and deeply moved by what she said. It was a good teaching for me because, first, I realized that part of my enjoyment of the beauty was the subtle belief that it would be there forever and unchanged-- and there she was reminding me that it wasn’t any more permanent than anything else! And so I was a bit miffed with her for ‘ruining’ my reverie. Then I heard the second part of what she said… the “I can’t bear it” part…and I understood that she didn’t ‘like’ the idea of impermanence any more than I did in that moment. And then, because all of this was occurring in the singularly clear mind-space that can arise after long periods of silence, there was a quality of just noticing this whole train of thought. And this gave rise to tears and a sense of deep compassion for the human desire for security, for being safe from harm and free from loss.
We can’t be free from loss. So practicing with all the small ones is a great way to prepare for meeting death. My mother used to tell me so often, “You wear your heart on your sleeve.” She wanted to protect me from pain and loss, I know. But in my life I’ve come to believe in ‘wearing’ this trembling heart of mine, and to trust in the things that keep it open, and soft and receptive. Yes, it hurts to do this sometimes. But I have a trust in my heart’s ability to heal. For me, the joy and compassion and peace that arise from feeling so deeply are worth the price.
What about you? What makes your heart tremble? I’d like to know…use the comment link below.
Until next time,
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