Three days ago, a dear, dear uncle of ours passed away suddenly. He and Ami’s father were pilots in the Indian Air Force, and shared the kind of maverick misadventures and camaraderie that only comes from extreme conditions in close quarters, where the stakes are high, but the spirits soar even higher. Their loyalty and fierce love for each other was palpable, and shared with everyone who was lucky enough to be attached to them. He was large, loyal and lovable, with an encompassing bear hug and a contagious joie de vivre.
Ami drove down at 5 am in the morning with her family to attend his funeral in Chandigarh where all his coursemates from the Air Force gathered, switching between shock and brimming with stories about their madcap exploits of their training years - the years they all dubbed to be the best years of their lives. Few experiences could replace the deep bonding, the sense of belonging, the sense of community, the gravity of being part of something larger than themselves, of working towards a greater purpose.
The stories of our uncle were scandalous, raucous and hysterical. Mini elegies to the man he was.The poet and author David Whyte said that: “An elegy is always a conversation between grief and celebration: the grief of the loss of the person and the celebration that you were here at all to share the planet with them.” Amidst the commiserating large gathering of friends and family; some who had rode on 2 overnight buses from across the country to make it to the cremation in time, Ami was struck by the overflow of love for the man we were mourning.
As Rilke said, “The great secret of death, and perhaps its deepest connection with us, is this: in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.” When it comes to ourselves, we should be so lucky to have our friends and family display such an outpouring of love, joy and grace. It really is the only thing that’s left of us - the memories that live on in the hearts of those we loved and loved us back.
A couple of years ago, the world was going through a Keanu Reeves renaissance, a “Keanusance” - as the Matrix star was lauded for his wisdom, his evergreen youth, and his generosity, while touring for a new movie. In one of the interviews with a talk show host who was particularly enamoured with Keanu’s percipience, asked him, “What do you think happens when we die?” Keanu took a beat, and then answered softly, “I know that those who love us…. will miss us.”
And that really is the simple truth of it. We will miss you very much R uncle.
And now back to our favourite links of the week, a short list:
To read: A beautiful essay by Ocean Vuong about the death of his uncle, and how art can offer the means to share our pain, and to live. Through it, our most necessary conversations can occur. Vuong’s voice is lyrical and a life-source in its deep exploration of humanity and its undying spirit, despite the tragedies that befall us.
In an age when the line between childhood and adulthood is blurrier than ever, what is it that makes people grown-up? An essay that explores the blurry lines of “adulting”. We live in a youth culture that believes life goes downhill after 26 or so. But perhaps we need to reclaim adulthood; which isn’t just a traditional trajectory of marriage, parenthood and a career. Adulthood is perhaps more elusive and may come when we feel, : “I am really and truly only in charge of myself. I am not in charge of trying to make life other than what it is.” “Society can only define a life stage so far; individuals still have to do a lot of defining themselves. Adulthood altogether is an Impressionist painting—if you stand far enough away, you can see a blurry picture, but if you press your nose to it, it’s millions of tiny strokes. Imperfect, irregular, but indubitably part of a greater whole.”
To joy scroll: A site that is inspired by the unique, symmetrical, the atypical, the distinctive design by the beloved film director, Wes Anderson. The site, Accidentally Wes Anderson, crowd-sourced beautiful photos from across the world, built upon Wes’ imaginative scenes and seeks out their real-life counterparts. Scrolling through the photos was opening our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us. Sometimes all we need to do is “reframe the perspective”.
To ponder: The Jonah Complex
We fear being great more than we desire it. That's the core idea of the Jonah complex.
The Jonah complex is the fear of success or the fear of being one's best which prevents unleashing one's own potential. The name of this concept comes from the Biblical prophet Jonah. He was called by God to go to Nineveh and save the city from destruction but instead, he fled.
As Abraham Maslow, the person credited for the term writes: "So often we run away from the responsibilities dictated (or rather suggested) by nature, by fate, even sometimes by accident, just as Jonah tried—in vain—to run away from his fate."
A normal question is: Why do we do it? Aren't we supposed to challenge ourselves and attempt to exceed our expectations?
It seems that a common reaction is regression, not progression.
When there is a challenge of some sort - a career change, moving to a new location, embarking on a long journey. The common response is fleeing. We fear the responsibility. We fear that the new life will be too much for us to handle. That's why we self-sabotage.
To cook:A classic, perfect meal using the humble Kaddu, or pumpkin,So rich and creamy, it is perfectly cooked and served with blue cheese for a little extra chutzpah! This recipe will have the yummy risotto in less than 30 minutes.
To grieve: A quote - We are stardust
“When you die, you are grieved by all the atoms of which you were composed. They hung together for years, whether in sheets of skin or communities of spleen. With your death they do not die. Instead, they part ways, moving off in their separate directions, mourning the loss of a special time they shared together, haunted by the feeling that they were once playing parts in something larger than themselves, something that had its own life, something they can hardly put a finger on.”
(from “Sum - Forty Tales from the Afterlives” by David Eagleman)
To end: A quote from Ocean Vuong, more wisdom on love and loss, after he lost his mother: “Oh, you know, you realize that grief is perhaps the last and final translation of love. And I think, you know, this is the last act of loving someone. And you realize that it will never end. You get to do this to translate this last act of love for the rest of your life. And so, you know, it's - really, her absence is felt every day. But because I'm becoming an author again in another book, it's doubly felt.
And ever since I lost her, I felt that my life has been lived in only two days, if that makes any sense. You know, there's the today, where she is not here, and then the vast and endless yesterday where she was, even though it's been three years since. How many months and days? But I only see it in - with one demarcation. Two days - today without my mother, and yesterday, when she was alive. That's all I see. That's how I see my life now.”
Wishing you a week of serenity, acceptance and joy,
Viv and Ami
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