Sunday, June 17, 2012

Persephone and Dionysus

 I wish to speak openly to my friends. I ask for your patience: my subject matter may sting.

All of us are children of the Western mind.

In the Western tradition, we’re conditioned to perceive the universe in terms of events spread along a linear continuum, each event stacked against each other moving from the past to future. There is a start to something, a middle of something, and an end to something.

Generally, beginnings are associated with joy, youth, vitality, potency; generally, endings are associated with resignation, futility, old age, impotence, and failure.

We perceive the beginning of things as birth, the middle of things as life, and the end of things as death.

But this is not how things actually are. We are biased. We’re conditioned to perceive the events in our lives through this lens. It’s a product of our socialization and maturation, and the way we conceptualize the passing of time.

So what if we were to wear a different pair of glasses? What if we were to try to see the universe in a different context? In the context of relationships, we might find that:

… Endings are Inevitable. Nothing is immortal in our human condition. It may be helpful to remind ourselves of this fact every time we hold our spouse, caress the nakedness of our secondary partners, or kiss our kids goodnight. All is just temporary bliss; every shared moment is a blessing. We should treat it as such.

… Durations Do Not Matter. Whether a relationship happens in two hours, six days, five months, or twenty years, what you learned from the experience – and how it shapes you as a person - matters more than its duration.

… Endings Conclude Suffering. If a thing struggles in life it will experience pain. Pain hurries decisions, forces us to take corrective action to ease suffering, invites greater disease, makes us uncomfortable and dissatisfied. If the suffering ends for somebody we love, isn’t the end of pain a reward? Isn’t there joy found at the conclusion of suffering?

… Endings Are Beginnings. This is an old idea. Hinduism is just one of many traditions that perceives the universe in cyclic terms. The universe is continuously obliterated in favor of a regenerative process of creative destruction. Art is this way as well: new ideas overlap the destruction of old patterns, processes, and politics. Endings pave the way for new beginnings.

… We Don’t Lose Anything – We Gain Everything. If you buy into my argument, every experienced moment was its own treasure. Relationships aren’t property … memories, feelings, elation, and ecstasy cannot be taken from you by anyone. They are shared experiences. What those experiences mean is up to you.

Maybe what I have to say is frustrating to hear now. Maybe it’ll make sense to you later. Still, my friends, show compassion: allow things to die; end its suffering; learn from its example. Celebrate the rise of new beginnings in the one you love. Do not morn the thing’s passing for you’ve lost nothing and you’ve gained everything – the joy of moments shared will shape you.

Finally, I offer you this:

Live within the reach of your mortality. Every moment is a blessing to be loved, celebrated, and cherished – those moments won’t ever be returned to us again. They are discrete and simple treasures.

Remember your loves. All of your loves. Every day. Strive to set aside the routine pain and focus instead on the joy: caress them, look longingly at them, and remind them that each moment is appreciated.

Live in the time offered by the relationship and do not take the future for granted; look lovingly back upon what was shared as to learn its lessons; let the end of one relationship shape the beginnings of new ones.

To which I raise my glass in this moment and I toast your rebirth. In this moment, you are at once Persephone and Dionysus. 



Anonymous said...

I needed to hear this. Profound thanks to you for helping heal my heart and regain my perspective.

Dave Dolnick said...

Well done. Thank you

Darvin L. Martin said...

This is an amazing post. My wife and I identify very strongly with the archetypes of Persephone and Dionysus for a number of reasons and the title caught my eye; the writing caught my mind.