It’s the second weekly meeting of the Philosophical Trio, and Miranda is glad to see again her two new companions. Linda, the philosopher and facilitator, invites David and Miranda to share their experiences from last week’s reading of Martin Foss’ text on death (AGORA, October 2016).
“Like you told us,” David says, “I read every day a couple of sentences from the text. But I couldn’t connect to it at all. I was depressed most of the week. I had a huge fight with me girlfriend, and she left me. And what does Martin Foss say about this? He says that the death of the beloved is a sacrifice for a higher life. When I read this, I said to myself: This guy is much too optimistic!”
“Can you explain what you mean?” Lind asks.
“Well, I too experienced death, so to speak. My girlfriend ‘died’ to me, but this didn’t give me a higher life. Maybe death is SOMETIMES a sacrifice for something high, but many times it’s just death – sad, empty, meaningless. I just couldn’t connect to this text.”
“Thank you for sharing, David,” Linda says. “But it seems to me that you connected to the text very nicely. You didn’t AGREE with it, but connecting does not mean agreeing. It gave you a good insight about the meaning of loss.”
David reflects, then nods in agreement.
A long silence follows as the three companions examine Foss’ text. Linda, who wants to prolong this moment of reflection, starts reading from the text aloud. But she changes it, adding to the original text the word “sometimes”:
The death of the beloved can SOMETIMES be understood as a sublime offering and sacrifice, and it will keep SOMETIMES the communion between the survivor and the deceased. It will SOMETIMES intensify the living experience of this communion, in which the deceased continues living.
Linda signals to David, and he reads this same passage again, while making his own additional changes:
But the death of the beloved is SOMETIMES NOT a sublime offering and sacrifice, and it BREAKS the communion between the survivor and the deceased. It will intensify the painful experience of this lost communion, in which the deceased continues living.
Linda signals to Miranda, and Miranda repeats a similar variation of this passage. For a few minutes they continue reading the same passage with small variations, again and again and again. Soon the reading becomes like a chant. The repetitive reading makes the words reverberate in Miranda’s mind, and they sink deeply into her.
Suddenly she stops. A “bubble” of insight surfaces into her mind. Linda’s soft smile tells her that she is welcome to take her time and reflect in silence.
Slowly, Miranda gives voice to her bubble: “Your sadness and my emptiness, David, are both forms of loss. And loss is a form of death: the death of a relationship, the death of happiness, the death of an opportunity, the death of self-awareness… We both experienced death this week.”
David is touched too. There is something about Linda’s presence that invites him to be personal and open. He feels no need to agree or disagree with Miranda, or indeed to talk ABOUT what she said. He simply reformulates the same idea in his own words: “A loss means that something died. A sense of emptiness means that a fullness has died. A missed opportunity means that a potential died. My sadness is a death of my togetherness.”
“I realize now,” Miranda adds, “that many of my everyday moments are a sort of death too. When I am at work, my mind is empty and I act like an automatic robot. It’s the death of my awareness, the death of my life-energies… And yet…”
She tells them about the insight which she had during the week (See “Miranda and her Philosophical Trio, number 1): that even when she works like an automatic robot, something important remains in the background: a bond with life.
The three companions converse about “dead moments.”
At the end of meeting, Linda summarizes. “We are starting to develop a philosophical conception of suffering and loss. So far we mentioned the concepts of SUFFERING, DEATH, SACRIFICE, LOSS, BOND. Thank you, Martin Foss, for helping us formulate these ideas, even if they don’t agree with what you write.”
“And what do you want us to do until our next meeting, Linda?”
“Let’s continue to explore our network of ideas, Miranda – but not in the abstract. This is, after all, philosophical practice. I will e-mail you a new text with instructions. During the week, please use this text to recollect yourself and reflect on your daily moments.”
“What do you mean by ‘recollect,’ Linda?”
“I leave this for you to explore. The word ‘recollect’, as you know, means to remember, but also to collect yourself again.”
By the door, before leaving, David says sadly, “I still feel sad, Linda. Our philosophy session didn’t make me happier.”
“Of course not, “Linda replies. “Philosophy is not supposed to solve your personal problems. Philosophy is about wisdom, about opening us to greater horizons of life. If it awakens in us new depths of understanding, if it makes our everyday moments deeper and richer – not happier or problem-free but deeper – then what more can we ask from it?”
On her way back home, Miranda reflects on the meeting. “I wonder what it means to have a deep moment…”