12 July, 2008

Read any Plutarch Lately?

Yeah, Plutarch. Mestrius Plutarchus A.D. 46?-c.120 born in Boetia, near Delphi. (Those are not things I knew 20 minutes ago.)

So I was reading The Art of The Personal Essay an anthology collected by Phillip Lopate, and I decided to read Plutarch's Consolation to His Wife

I was moved. I cried. It is an essay intended for his wife regarding the death of their daughter. It is at once, both a reminder of the decorum one should demonstrate, and a letter of thanks to his wife for already displaying all of the traits he so admires in the face of such a great loss. Among other things, it is also an essay that rejoices in the life of their daughter, rather than the life she could have had. I cried. (italics below mine)
The two years of her life that intervened must by no means be effaced from our memory but rather reckoned as a pleasure, for they afforded us delight and happiness. We must never consider a small good as a large evil, nor be ungrateful for what fortune has given us because it has not filled the measure as full as we expected. Always respectfulness to the divine and a cheerful uncomplaining attitude towards fortune produces fruit that is good and sweet.
I found it both comforting and curious to have my daily battle summarized into one sentence; one sentence written 2000 years ago.

and there is another passage which was particularly poignant about pitying the child for all that she could have grown to be:
If you pity the babe for departing unmarried and childless, again you have the consolation of knowing that you yourself enjoyed a full share of such experiences. It is not fair to set a high value upon these matters for those who lack them and a low for those who have them. She has arrived where there is no distress; there is no need for us to be distressed. Why should we be afflicted with grief on her account when she herself can experience no grief? The loss of treasures loses its sting when they reach a state to which the sting is no longer appropriate. It was only of little things that your Timoxena was deprived, for all she knew was little things, and in little things she took her pleasure. How can we say that she was deprived of things of which she had no knowledge, no experience, no desire?
I do not exactly mean to compare having a child with special needs to losing a child to an early death, the passage merely spoke to me in that I quite often find that the pain I endure is much more about the loss that I perceive...and those are things of which Jake knows very little. It is my pain, not his.

"And so..." That's what my mom would say. And so, I am going to read a little Michel de Montaigne and go to bed.

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