I just finished reading “All the Light we Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and already I am missing the characters. The novel takes place during WWII in a small walled city on the coast of France called Saint Malo and flashes back and forth between war time and prewar, Doerr carefully crafting the lives of different characters whose paths eventually cross.
From the very beginning, I sensed that this book would break my heart, as any book about war should. And it did. But carefully, in small doses.
Simultaneously, I have been reading “The Wild Edge of Sorrow” by Francis Weller who talks about the nine gates of grief. Where these two books intersect is in Gate Seven: Drinking the Tears of the World.
“Coming home to grief is sacred work, a powerful practice that contains what the indigenous soul knows and what the spiritual traditions teach: we are all connected to one another. Our fates are bound together in a mysterious but recognizable way. Grief registers the many ways this depth of kinship is assaulted daily. Grief work becomes a core element in our ability to sustain and maintain the well-being of our communities. It is a central means whereby our compassion is quickened and our mutual suffering acknowledged. It is also a form of soul protest, our wholehearted response to acts of violence and oppression.”
I have been seeking out historical fiction about WWII after watching “Foyle’s War” as a way to slowly face the facts of how lives were altered…a reality that was never fully taught in school history courses.
At this point, I find the fiction more emotionally manageable… a way to train myself to be aware of the world’s sorrows without being overwhelmed and immobilized. It’s the way that homeopathic medicine works, introducing small doses of dis-ease so that our bodies can do their magic.
In the same way, I hope that my heart can do it’s magic. Not to build immunity, but to build resilience. If I want to open to a rich emotional life, I need practice in all emotions. Practice in accepting and eventually releasing it all.
With Nine gates of grief, I wonder how we ever manage to experience bliss…and yet we do. I do. All of the time. I also experience grief. And I understand that they are both on the mobius strip of inner/outer, light/dark, happy/sad.
I read “All the Light…” eagerly because I grew to love the people. Which is why I now feel their loss. I wouldn’t have it any other way.