What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist? What is death? Why should some people live while others are allowed to die? Why, after three to five millennia, haven’t humans been able to figure out life and death? Why haven’t I been able to completely let go of my cousin’s death twenty years ago? Why did he have to die in the first place? Why?
Lou Reed died last Sunday. Most people only know him from his “Walk on the Wild Side”. Some other more hip folks say, “No! The Velvet Underground, dude!” For me, I know Mr. Reed from an album he did in 1992, called “Magic and Loss”. Prior to making the album, Reed had watched two friends die from cancer. In his grief, he was inspired to put his questions and his emotions on paper and then to music. He wanted answers. Or at the very least he wanted to scream his pain merely for the sake of screaming.
I heard that pain, but I didn’t so much identify with it for another two years when my cousin died in a car crash. In my sadness, and in seeing the unfathomable grief of my Aunt and Uncle, I turned to this album. I wanted something to make sense of this tragedy. I needed something to hold onto; something that could help me stand as I searched my way through the dark sadness to some form of light.
Believe it or not, all of these questions, all of these ponderings of death, and all of the sadness that comes with it, are all part of the power of the Fall. Death surrounds us everywhere. Leaves fall from trees. Flowers die back. In the animal kingdom, the older animals fall prey to the predators nourishing themselves before the winter. It is the annual demonstration that death is a natural part of life.
Yet, the fall, in Chinese medicine, is also something more. Fall has the energetic of letting go, of surrendering. Not “surrender” as to give yourself up like a prisoner, but rather to give yourself over to the possibility of life beyond sadness, beyond death. Sadness hurts. It’s supposed to hurt, because our heart, our spirit, our soul has been injured. But when we don’t allow ourselves to fully grieve, that grief festers and eats away at us. We might become depressed, or maybe have muscle pain from years of resisting the expression of sadness. Yet, when we allow ourselves permission to feel the sadness instead of resisting it, we can be liberated from it. After we cry, we may still be unhappy with the situation (as in the death of a loved one), but at least we have let go of a bit of the sadness. From there, we can find our joy again.
As Lou Reed found his way through his sadness, he finally let go of the questions and found his quiet place of resolution and peace. He sings:
“There’s a little magic in everything
and then some loss to even things out….”
It made sense to me, helping me to overcome my own sadness and find my path to surrender. I still miss my cousin, and the big questions of life and death, obviously, still remain. But at least I’m more peaceful with not knowing the answers. And as I observe the fall, with it’s beautiful colors, crisp air, and shorter days, I allow myself to let go more and more to the energy of fall. Because when I become more peaceful with the loss, I will then be able to better appreciate the magic of life.