(27) In Good Faith

Two books are close to my heart. If I wasn’t adverse to religion I would have called them my bibles. The books offer their readers a view of life, stripped of frills, and seemed to say to me, “that’s the way to do it, nothing more, nothing less, and let’s keep it simple”. It’s a point of view that wonderfully matches my own motto: “I am who I am and I can’t act differently”.

You probably are wondering now what this topic is about. This post is about the essay’s from Michel De Montaigne, written between 1571 and 1592 (but still very actual today) and a book with the intriguing title “The Grey Writings” by Josep Pla and written between 1918 and 1920.

Both authors share a great ability to observe and put things in perspective without wanting to lecture us.

In his pre-face Michel the Montaigne writes (and I quote): “This book, dear reader, is one of good face. … It is only intended for my friends and relatives: if I slip away (which will soon be the case) they can find something about my nature and my moods in there and can thus keep my memory alive. … I want them to see me in my simplicity, just as I am, casual and unadorned. … Here will be plainly shown, as far as decency permits, both my flaws as well as my natural shape. … So, reader, I form myself the substance of this book; you would be crazy to spend your time on a topic as frivolous and vain. So farewell.” Then a series of thoughts is following in over 1400 (!!) pages.

Josep Pla describes in the form of a diary how he experiences his life in Catalonia. The critic of Le Monde put it in this way: “His universal spirit has nourished itself by the humus of his small village.” And the text of the publisher, on the back cover of the book, I can only agree with: “in this apparently so casually written book, Pla condenses with a superior irony the full and all-pervading greyness of every day’s life. It is a collage of ‘choses vues’…”

Why do I want to share this with you? What has this to do with grief and bereavement? The explanation might shock you.

There have been quite a few times in my life I had to say goodbyes and not only because death separated me from a loved one. Circumstances can also lead to loss, so everybody will probably know a yet living “dead”. Anyway, all these experiences have taught me at a young age that I shouldn’t make things bigger than they really are. As in teaching my three-year-old granddaughter how she can cope with a small loss: “it’s okay, it’s part of the game.” It is what it is.

The sooner we learn that grief and pain are an inseparable part of life, there is nothing else we can do then to breathe deeply and to straighten our back, the better we can deal with life again. Of course in this vision will be room for compassion, to give or receive consolation but, most of all, these will be only ointments for our soul. But what we all, those who are still living, have to prevent at all costs is self-pity, searching for those who are willing to listen to our complaints and – the worst thing that can happen to you – is to keep sticking in the internal groove of being pity.

Science knows it already for a long time: eventually the terrestrial bacteria colony will survive all of us in blissful ignorance of our daily worries.

That’s why it’s not crazy to have a party and to have fun every day. A very small party will do. Act as Pla and Montaigne; observe with a smile, open your eyes and enjoy the first butterfly you see in your garden. Focus on the sunray that tickles along the dark curtain and enters your room and let that warm your day and your heart.

Phew, this post now starting to lecture you something. That’s not its intention. Let me conclude with something that happened to me this morning. I wanted to throw a postcard away that was in my kitchen because of its beautifully colored drawing on the front. Before the card disappeared in the waste bin I looked at it one more time.

It turned out that the drawing contains a small text which I saw for the first time. It said in Dutch “Niet getreurd of somber gedacht, later heb je niet voor niets gewacht” or translated in English “do not be sad or have gloomy thoughts, later you will not have been waiting in vain”. The drawing shows a cat sitting on the kitchen counter and is looking longingly to the big fish that lays on the plate of his owner.

I wish you all a great and lovely spring season!

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