At a loss

Losses take different shapes and forms. It is when trying to make sense of these losses that we come at a loss for both words and, perhaps, even meaning. Muted and dreary as we are, we ask questions about ourselves we cannot answer (Why me? Why now? What is the point of this? Where is God in all of this?) when we can ask a question of ourselves which only we can answer: Where are we in all of this?

This question challenges us to reflect not on the loss itself but on what springs out of it; not on the emptiness brought about by such a loss but on our pretentiousness in expecting that things should happen as we would have them to; not on God’s silence but on our aridity towards God.

In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis argues, not too dissimilar to Friedrich Nietzsche and Viktor Frankl, that humans forgo happiness for meaning. For Lewis, Joy (another technical term for meaning) is distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has only one characteristic in common with the other two: the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, Joy might almost equally well be called a kind of unhappiness or grief, but it is a kind we want.

We all know there is no Pleasure in losing. Losing doesn’t make you Happy, either; it might even make you feel hopeless. One, however, might feel Joyful in losing. Losing is not, however, in and of itself, joyful and something to look forward to. One does not enjoy it out of resignation.

A loss renders our own strivings absurd. Absurdity is not futility, no matter how futile our strivings to be better or perhaps even simply to understand seem to be. A loss puts us in our place, perhaps even prompting us, in Samuel Beckett’s words, ‘to fail again, to fail better.’ Put differently, are we dancing to the music of the flute? (Luke 7:31-35) Are we fickle, difficult to please because of our negativity and complaints?

The point is to come to terms with the inevitability of losing without succumbing to it; it is to acknowledge our human condition, and to let God in to realise ourselves in Godself.

Jean Claude graduated with an MSc in Anthropology in 2014 from the University of Aberdeen and is currently reading a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Theology at the University of Malta.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *