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Can We Balance Loss?

My last post of 2019 or my first of 2020 – a matter of perspective. None the less – Happy New Year dear reader!!

I’ve written of balance multiple times on this blog; about the importance of balance, that in fact, it is a necessity – perhaps inescapable even. I wrote many detailed posts on it (search for “balance” in the search window to find them all) always speaking of the equity and equality in life. But recent thoughts involving friends made me wonder about that, and thus this post was born.

I remain a diehard believer in balance, let me get that out of the way right now. But during this short stroll, you will observe me question it and ponder the truth in it. It is surely true that all equations in nature balance (as in my post of May 2018 “Suddenly Summer”). That remains as a constant. But is there an equation for sorrow or grief? Is there such a thing as balance in happiness and despair? Can we expect life to be fair or just with regards to emotions as deep as these?

The immediate and obvious answer is: of course not! We all know that life is not fair. And indeed, what s fair? I am instantly drawn to the latest war of words in Washington between the House and the Senate. Or should I say between the Democrats and the Republicans? If anyone wonders why this has become an Us vs. Them / You vs. Me society, look no further than the leaders of this country, but I digress. The latest in a long line of essentially daily bickering is about a “fair” hearing. The politics aside, trying to make anything truly fair is a prodigious task at best. What is “fair”? From purely a definition perspective, it is “marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism. Lacking either the purest overseer draped with nobility and wrapped in objectiveness (traits conspicuously absent in our nation’s capital) or someone with absolutely no stake in the game, i.e. someone who could not care less about the outcome.

It is improbable that Washington will find “fair” in their latest round of disagreements; or ever for that matter. And that is much the same as everything else we experience in life as sojourners; due to that marvelously intricate catalyst to all things: perspective. What is fair to you will rarely seem fair to me. As I just said, the further removed, the less involved one is, the better their odds of being able to objectively determine what is and is not, fair. It is not necessarily equality or even just; it often little more than a feeble attempt to level the playing field.

But for most of us in life, “fair” is more than a set of rules in a game or contest; it’s about the cosmic justice, lady luck, or that benevolent demon – karma. Often when we cry out that something is not fair, it is less about being “fair” and more about us losing out and someone else gaining: an advantage, a reward, a promotion, or even something as silly as a parking spot. It has become almost innate in us to cry out “that’s not fair!” regardless of the circumstance; certainly there are times that truly warrant the outcry, but oft times we utter it without thought or accuracy.

Such with loss. There are no ethereal scales mighty enough to be able to weigh the consequence of a loss when compared to the joys already experienced in a person’s life. Rather than delve into an entire lifetime of a person and the breadth and depth of the complexities of human emotions, I will keep it simple and use a dog as my analogy. Breed and size aside, overall a dog lives for ten years. And during those years, they love unconditionally. They anxiously count the seconds until our return when we leave and dance like it is 1999 when e do get home. The give and they protect and they love throughout their entire lives and in seemingly an instant, they are gone. And we all cry out “It’s not fair” when they leave us. Add up all the love and joy they provided to us over those ten years and can it compare to that moment of loss? I can answer for myself that it cannot.

Yet step back – become uninvolved – alter your perspective to exclude emotions and include vast tracts of time and the answer changes; ten years of unconditional love certainly outweighs the pain from the loss. It does not feel it when you are in the moment, but with time and perspective we come to realize that loss is painful and fairness has nothing to do with it. We simply can’t attempt to balance the equation with loss. As Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Tis is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. And that is so true; the moment of loss, regardless of the mechanism, as horrifically painful and devastating as it is pales by comparison to the myriad of memories borne from that time together.

In the throes of grief there is no equation in the world that can balance that moment of loss against the joys accumulated throughout the time shared. One could actually argue that the greater the joys of the relationship, the deeper the grief of the loss. And perhaps that is the lesson in this; loss is not fair and is never going to be easy. And during that moment it is not fair to assume there can ever be anything called balance.

Happy New Year!!

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