Life and death , death and life stories merge... Recently, I attended the memorial service of a friend who died at the age of 104. He was a Renaissance man who lived life fully and who admired women dearly. I believe he was a feminine principled man who honored his anima within.
He was fortunate to have a caring family of adult children--who are also getting on in years themselves. His death, even with its attendant grief, could be a celebration of an enormous life lived with gusto. He was a chemist, gemologist, astronomer, musician, mountain climber whose life would make Zorba the Greek dance: the full catastrophe.
It is difficult to write linearly- and in linear time- when everything appears to be happening at once.Of course, hasn't that always been true? Our lives collide with other lives. We are interbeings as
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk reminds us.
My daughter and her fiance are planning their wedding while I also listen to news of death and dying. My friend of over 40 years wants to help with the wedding planning. Meanwhile her sister-in-law is in the throes of debilitating cancer treatment; this is in the wake of having lost her husband, my friend's brother, to brain cancer.
We are beings lurching toward death as soon as we are born. Heidegger bluntly stated we are" sein und der tod" beings towards death.Perhaps we are all metaphors of the Equinox/Solstice: you know, Darkness increases until December 21 ( of course, the Southern Hemisphere is our enantiomorph) , then in the in the midst of the Darkness, December 22nd until June 21st we gather more Light each day.So, in the darkness there is light and in the lightness there is the dark. Our darkest days of winter are the harbingers leading us to June, and our brightest days of June portend the coming of darkness.
Except there is predictability with the earth's constant journey around the sun. There is no predictability to our own personal story of the light and dark. Nevertheless, there is a sense that when we humans experience life, there is the undercurrent of dark mortality and in the encounter with death there is the counterpoint of life.
In my work, I facilitate a grief group, Survivors of Accident and Murder.Here the members are grieving the loss of children or spouses, or brothers or sisters, who have died violently. No one can shore up the hole in the heart created by such immense losses but in the compassionate connection among the "members"of that "community" there is the building of hope to find meaning in life again.To me, this is an examlpe of the Feminine Principle at work. Wherever care and empathy are the priority, there resides the Feminine Principle.
Sometimes, I imagine the Feminine Principle as the Divine Feminine aspect of God.
There at least two visual images that come to mind for me when I think of the feminine principle and compassion. One image is of a Pieta, but not just the most famous one. For in addition to Michelangelo's rendering of Mother Mary holding the Body of Christ, there is also the depiction by Kaethe Kollwitz of a mother holding her dead son/soldier. And there are others.
Ironically, a poster of Kollwitz's sculpture is presented with the columns of the Brandenburg Gate in the background.Recently, a young man attended a presentation I was giving where I had this poster on display.He astutely noted how the pillars may be a symbol of crumbling patriarchy.
Beyond this background, the Pieta is a profound image of love and compassion confronting, no, not confronting, but embracing, suffering and death.
I bow deeply to the artists who can find the love and light in stone to make visible for us that which is, so often, invisible.That is, they uncover suffering and the love that caresses it.
The Pieta, then, is the visualization of the Feminine Principle's beholding suffering with a loving heart.
There is another image of the Feminine Principle which is quite individual to me. It is a drawing that hangs at the top of our stairs, done by a local artist, Maria de los Angeles Morales. In it, a wondrous dark woman-- Native American or Latin American--enfolds a mammoth bowl of maize in her large lap. Here is abundant earth--life at its fullest being protected by the Feminine Principle--or Presence.
So there is an interweave of the pattern of Pieta and Corn Woman: the Feminine Principle facing suffering, the Feminine Principle celebrating life. There is no either-or. We cannot have the one image without the other. And so death intertwines with life-- and weddings. We hope for new life--grandchildren--even when darkness envelops us.