- By Eileen Vandergrift
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It is a common, and fairly well respected notion that what we fail to remember, we will repeat (individually and as societies). Repetition is one way we come into contact, more and more loudly, with truths that won’t go away, cannot yet be owned and need desperately to be understood. Again, this time in Nice, France, we stand agape at the intentional horror reigned down upon ordinary individual people who served as a canvas for the pervasive and anonymous hate memorialized there. I want to ask aloud, What is being repeated? What do we need to better understand to meet this terror with something beyond retaliative hatred? What has to happen for this escalation to fold in on itself, for people to feel less frightened and helpless moving more and more into greater anger and outrage (yet another repetition)? Plainly, I have no answers…I find myself capable of little more than musing about root causes or systemic responses…still, in the good everyday, I want each and every one of us, to be able to DO some small things to alleviate our own besieged feelings of helplessness, remembering that when a present grief is experienced it often activates all the grief experiences we have had to manage over a lifetime. We are all struggling with vulnerability right now, ( even the most aggressively defensive among us ). I want to challenge us all to make the effort to step back from the brink of our anger and fear long enough to see that we are all at risk though we don’t want to be…that all sorts of ancient pain, personal and social, has been activated and so we are sensitive to each others differences in a heightened way. I want us to imagine, alongside all this, that we still share, the often unspoken but common, wish to be less embattled. From this perspective, we might find that we are more able to bear differences that do not threaten us for the sake of our own relief? C.S.Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” As I manage my feelings today, I’m trying to lean into my grief so as not to be blinded by my fear.