My mind has been dwelling inordinately of late on loss; my father-in-law passed away on October 28.
Of course, loss is inevitable, for none of us is immortal. But his death was not the result of the inevitable toll of time and aging. Rather, it occurred in tragic circumstances. The news reports of the incident did not give his name or condition, but merely reported that an 80-year old man had perished.
As I read those reports in my initial shock and grief, I felt indignant at the implications of that accurate but inadequate characterization of him. Yes, he was 80, but he was not infirm, nor senile, nor incapable of taking care of himself. He was fit and spry, of sound mind, leading geological field trips in the Sierra Nevada.
Someone catching this story on the local news might well have thought that his age had doomed him: “He was probably too old to get out.” “He must have been in a wheelchair and couldn’t save himself.” “It’s too bad, but I guess it was inevitable.”
A loss such as this, once it has occurred, must be accepted. But it should not be considered inevitable. If we had had some foreknowledge of the event, what would we not have done to avoid it?
And yet, after other tragedies, there are those who would throw up their hands and say that nothing can be done, that no steps can be taken to avoid future tragedies of the same sort. The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is only the latest in a long line of incidents that seems to evoke this resigned response: not “What can be done?”, but “Nothing can be done.”
I am speaking not only of death, but of loss more generally. The musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, viewing their management’s bargaining proposals, had a dark vision of what those proposals would likely entail: a fundamental loss of quality of the orchestra and the opera company, resulting in a great artistic loss for their city.
Their management seemed to be playing the role of those local-news watchers—”it’s too bad, but it’s inevitable.” But the musicians were not willing to give up. They stood firm, knowing that this loss was not inevitable, and the principle was worth fighting for.
Now the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are facing similarly harsh proposals, from a management that seems equally resigned, claiming that the financial realities of their position are fraught and unchangeable—”it’s too bad, but it’s inevitable.” These musicians also deem that acquiescence to the proposals will lead to decline and loss.
We must not be resigned to loss. We must not be apathetic, we must not let the unrelenting divisiveness of the news cycle cow us into acceptance that nothing can be done. The musicians of Lyric and Baltimore have shown us, are showing us, that we can act and have an impact. We can stave off loss. We can refuse to go gently into that good night.
Note: The author is Senza Sordino Editor