Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Return II

Meghan O'Rourke on the death of her mother, in The New Yorker (3/7/11)

"...Already left behind, I wanted to call out, like Orpheus, 'Come back! Come back!'

Yet the story of Orpheus, it occurs to me, is not just about the desire of the living to resuscitate the dead but about the ways in which the dead drag us along into their shadowy realm because we cannot let them go. So we follow them into the Underworld, descending, descending, until one day we turn and make our way back....

...I would always look for clues to her in books and poems, I realized. I would always search for the echoes of the lost person, the scraps of words and breath, the silken ties that say, Look: she existed."


I think the key is: "...until one day WE TURN AND MAKE OUR WAY BACK." Obsessing over the dead and trying to follow them does no good; we'll be there soon enough, anyway. Following the dead is not the mission of the living. The attempt to do so is pathetically (in the sense of "pathos," not pity) noble, but ultimately, obviously misguided; how we turn and make our way back is what counts. The return an homage to BOTH the dead and the living.

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