Loss And Gain
We navigate through life as best as we can, but so much is far beyond our control. Although we attempt to paddle in a direction we believe to be advantageous, the tides may take us far from where we imagined we’d end up. And as we go, we will encounter all manner of events that in our innocent youth we simply never even imagined.
In an increasingly dynamic world, few escape the experience of major loss. Even losses that in themselves have limited emotional resonance — for how many people, in truth, really love their jobs but merely need the income they provide? — the consequences can be devastating. We are fortunate that in the developed world we rarely nowadays suffer the loss of a child, which is perhaps the most unbearable loss of all. But we do lose romantic partners, lifelong friends, and close family members. We lose jobs, houses, and dreams. We may become estranged from those we love, or they may simply move away and let communication wither and die as the years pass.
Loss is an inevitable part of living, so how we react to loss is what matters. Our reaction is (in theory at least if rarely in practice) the only element somewhat under our control.
Anger is a common reaction to loss, especially if it’s easy to blame some individual and thereby avoid taking responsibility for the choices and actions we ourselves undertook that ultimately led to the unwanted outcome. This is why divorce is so frequently unpleasant and why lawyers can make such a comfortable living from the invariably lengthy and expensive process. If people were rational, divorces would be quick and cheap, but people are very far from rational and so the ultimate outcome, pace Dickens’ novel Bleak House, is for the adversaries to effect a transfer of wealth into the pockets of the lawyers and thereby impoverish themselves and their children.
Anger results from a childish assumption that the universe owes us a specific outcome merely because we desire it. Instead of accepting our limited control, we rage and throw tantrums like a small child that accidentally dropped its ice-cream cone and is now furious at the ice-cream seller for giving them a “broken” cone or at the ice-cream itself for its heinous crime of falling. But no matter how much we…