Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We regret to inform you of the loss of your dignity

No emotion is what you would call easy to deal with; even the more pleasure-producing ones should come with the literary equivalent of the Surgeon General's warning about the effects of feeling good producing guilt.  Even second-hand pleasure might produce self-recriminations if not outright guilt

It has been your observation for some time that grief is of particular consequence and nuance, seeming to appear and reappear at greater whim than anger, hatred, or the well-disguised feelings that inhabit bigotry.  Grief has its origins in loss, a condition arguably shared by most homo sapiens; it may be measured in two specific ways, the degree to which grief has weighted its bearer down in his or her pursuit of a meaningful, eventful life, or by the robustness of the individual's persistent attempts at functioning in spite of having suffered a deep loss.  Stories of individuals who have shut down over the euphemistic "broken heart" sell well and persist, extending in the memorable case of Greyfriars Bobby to a dog, grieving over the loss of his master.  Stories of those who have "soldiered on" or persisted in performing become inspirational beacons.  The loss suffered by Joan Didion when her husband did suddenly in her presence scarcely creates a ripple of out-of-the-ordinary grief; the death of one of a pair of mates before the other has more probability than both dying at the same time.  And yet, Joan Didion's work, The Year of Magical Thinking, her response to the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, stands as a monument to the portrayal of the enormity of grief that at conservative estimate has an active future among readers of over a hundred years.

You regard grief as a major player in the emotions league, but in recent months have come to look toward yet another emotion as at least the equal of grief, in nuance and devastating effect.  You have experienced it numerous times, although not in recent memory.  It has turned your heat away from grief, which you have indeed experienced in major portion within the past six months, and you are aware of the hovering presence of grief, almost tidal in its waxing and ebb.  Yet you pause to consider humiliation,which you equate with a severe departure of personal dignity due to some confrontation with a powerful social or institutional force.

The past few months, your interest in Marxism and Marxist interpretations of literature and societal behavior may have been the spark that ignited the fire of interest in humiliation.  You are, at the moment, pursuing Terry Eagleton's Why Mark Was Right, as a part of an audacious nonfiction project you have come to think of as Volume Two of D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classical American Literature, wherein you will spend some time discussing the literary visions of Leslie Fiedler, a writer you have greatly admired, perhaps even more than you have actually understood.

Although you believe grief of some sort or another is inescapable, however irrational the cause for the individual who is experiencing it, you believe, or would like to believe it possible to escape humiliation, even though you observe numerous individuals pursuing courses of activities with a high probability of producing it.

Noted.  Now we shall continue to observe.

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