On the Eloquence of Grief


These days, when I’m in need of inspiration, I meander back and forth between the blogs of my friends J. and K.

These two women lead vastly different lives but there’s much that they share in common: not least of which is that they’re both gifted writers and poets.

The other thing they share in common, which only just struck me recently, is how eloquently they speak the language of pain.

Maybe its a peculiarity of writers that they can be startlingly lucid about things like grief, anger and loss. When J. and K. tell me about their disappointments and heartaches, they do so in voices of quiet and articulate dignity, probing the anatomy of their suffering with a clarity that defies the incoherence normally associated with anguish.

It’s almost enough to make one think that the trauma is over, that the (current) conversation is nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia rather than the autopsy of a very present pain.

And the limpid, almost beguiling, quality of their self-examination has often been a source of great solace to me—solace in the sense that pain can be one of the most solitary (and isolating) of experiences, and simply knowing that someone else knows exactly how it feels (and this is where the precision of the language counts) is enough to endure the darkness just a little longer.

And this, I suppose, is why no one bothers to be as articulate about happiness. Happiness doesn’t need language; it merely radiates. Its very indeterminacy testifies to its intensity. The more inchoate it gets, the less it requires verbal expression.

Which is why, and I’ve said it more than once on this blog, when one is happy, it is best if one remains mute. Or, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once put it: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

Amen.

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