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On Common Ground

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Within a world obsessed with pointing out differences, it may seem impossible to find a universal common ground. There is not much guaranteed in life, even simply life itself. In life, across humanity, we see so much disparity by age and background, culture and lifestyle, to the extent that even within a single household exist vast differences in life experience, interpretations of our reality and unique expressions of self. Regardless of our differences, as humans, we all know without doubt the same two truths; we are born and we die. Depending on personal experience, school of thought, religious beliefs and personal traditions, the understanding and capacity for these two truths may still differ vastly from one person to the next. So where again, can we find universal understanding? I believe that common ground is in our grief.

During the pandemic it was clear that everyone, across the entire planet, was grieving in one way or another ‘life before’. While the pandemic demonstrated this more finitely, this is not limited to a world wide health crisis, but can be assured throughout all of human history, we have grieved. This is not limited to death or negative experiences, but any sort of change which marks a distinct ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Even with a positive result of change, we are still left to grieve what once was. We all know the breath of this emotional landscape. We’ve all hid from the darkness, tired and afraid. We have all dug our heals to prevent some change rather than face a moment more of heartbreak. We’ve buried our emotions behind smiles of appreciation for whatever sliver of good we can find or lay victim to a seemingly unshakable pain seeking relief at any cost. Whether acknowledged or not, we all know such death of self intimately.

Yet still, how can we seek to describe in plain language such a labor as grief? My modern English fails me time and again to sum up the ongoing sensational experiences. Our tongues offer mere glimpses to the depth of our human emotion. The unknown and unnamed perpetuates fear, encouraging our internalized shame and guilt to present a continual perception of lonesomeness, even within such universal knowing. All the while our body, our blood, bone and nervous systems, serve as a time capsule, holding stores of memory, imprints of our emotions, for as long as we allow them to reside. Our body remembers, even when we forget, haunting us in ways humanity still seeks to comprehend. The power then lies in fearlessly feeling our emotions as they appear in our grieving. To shed the versions of self that can no longer survive in the knowledge our grief has presented, to outgrow our past and hauntings, and further, to live.

However morbid this common ground may seem, there is solace to be found here. There is strength and survival and opportunity for growth, and there is the reminder that we are never truly alone. Someone out there knows the pain we have felt. Generations before us have carried the grief we bare, and still, here, we exist. Humanity has forged on through perpetual grieving; continuing to learn, to evolve, to create and to love. So perhaps, it is the depth of our grief which mirrors our capacity for life. It is the acceptance of death and inevitable change which offers permission to live, truly, within all our emotions, our pain and our passion. It is by sharing our experience, expressing our darkness, exploring language to describe our most complex emotions, which offers permission for others to face theirs, and safe space to exist with our own. Despite our differences, regardless of belief, we all know the separation of death, may our common grief serve as a reminder that we all have equal right to live.

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