Farrell Silverberg and Judith E. Vida
Introduction to Issue 2:
The papers collected for presentation in this, the second issue of IFPE’s 2014 Other/Wise Uncut, share themes of bearing witness to loss and trauma as a path to healing and reclamation. This issue features 6 papers gathered under the theme of Bearing Witness (authors Tenenbaum, Kielhofer, O’Connell, Lijtmaer, Molofsky & Scarpati, and Dyette & Rhee). They address us in a manner that is intimate, universal and life affirming.
In the opening words of the first paper in this issue, Tenenbaum’s, we read “To accompany someone through death and dying is indeed an affirmation of life,” characterizing what is to come in this collection. Beyond this, she points out to us that, “it is crucial to help those who are ending their journey, but perhaps more so, crucial to follow up with their survivors, in terms of both mental health and resilience. Widowhood and orphanhood are never-ending processes of ‘moving through.’”
Along these same lines, Kielhofer’s paper begins with a line from Rilke’s Duino Elegies, “…this having been once, although only once, to have been on this earth, seems irrevocable,” and furthermore, “…speak, and be witness.” The images she described are also irrevocable, such as that of a woman using her shirtsleeve to try to wipe away the word “rape” that had been painted across a woman’s face on an advertising poster––the reflex of a kind heart against a violent one.
Both Kielhofer’s and O’Connell’s papers were inspired by Freud’s 1918 paper “On Transience,” in which a walk in the woods served as the backdrop for considering the paradox of enjoying beauty when war and destruction were imminent. O’Connell, in taking a deep or “divine” reading approach to Freud’s paper, takes us on a journey through poetry––from Basho to Tennyson, and from Shakespeare to Sandburg. O’Connell noted that “seeing beauty in the transience is only part of the story for Freud. At the same time, he [Freud] underlines the importance of mourning that which was lost… required so that the person can move on…”
In Lijtmaer’s paper, trauma and witnessing are discussed on a societal scale, with a focus on survivors of genocide and political repression. She notes that in survivors, even “faith in the possibility of a positive outcome through communication dies” and “what is killed off in the severely traumatized is the imagination, empathy, curiosity, desire, and kindness.” Affirming the theme of this volume, Lijtmaer states, “Only when trauma is symbolized, when there is a witness, or when one is able to be one’s own witness, there is an opportunity to recover and resume life.”
Molofsky and Scarpati offer a deceptively simple comparing of notes, histories, and interests between a grandmother and a grandson, that ultimately comments on what tends to be lasting or permanent throughout generations. Referencing the Japanese concept of mono no aware, (“finding the beauty in the sadness at the transience of all beautiful things”), noting the universal drive for elders to pass on such beauty to the younger generation. This paper is their testimony to the process of passing what is valued from the hands of one generation to another, with consciousness and love.
This issue closes with the gift of music composed by singer-songwriters Dyette and Rhee. It is a multimedia contribution of songs about transience and loss, incorporating themes from Buddhist wisdom about transience, suffering and transcendence, melded with reflections on loss. One lyric, for instance, describes the final moments of a friend who died of cancer, “He let go. No rise / No Tumble, just / Dissipation of nicotine clouds / Into Air, becoming…” Only a short written introduction appears in this volume that includes links to the music, to which you can listen online.
At our conference in Philadelphia last Fall, IFPE was graced by the presence of Lama Losang Samten who embodied ideas of beauty and transience when he made a beautiful sand mandala painting during the course of our meeting (of the style you see on the cover of this issue), and then, with the help of all in attendance, he dismantled it and swept it away. When I asked how he felt at the moment of dismantling that beautiful and labor-intensive work, he answered, “I felt happy.”
The authors in this volume speak as witnesses to transience. It is our hope, as the Editors, that the reader, after traversing the themes of trauma, loss and healing in these papers, will be left with a feeling similar to that expressed by Losang Samten. We are still here, at least for now, and there is still suffering for which we can serve as compassionate witnesses and there is much beauty in response to which we can enjoy.
Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) Sand Mandala
by the Venerable Losang Samten
Photo Credit: Thomas Bugaj
Individual articles in this issue:
- My mom’s legacy: Letters from Odessa, a penchant for theatre, and eternal optimism
- By Silvia Tenenbaum
- Freud’s “On Transience” and the Eternal Wounds of War
- By Isolde Keilhofer, LP
- Poetic Associations to Freud’s “On Transience”
- By Anthony O’Connell, PSY.D., Dip.PSA
- The Permanence of Pain in Social Trauma
- By Ruth Lijtmaer
- Generations: The transience and permanence of what is transmitted, shared, and remembered
- By Joseph Scarpati and Merle Molofsky
- Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta: An Exploration of the 3 Dharma Seals Through Poetry and Song
- By Ksera Dyette and Jess Rhee
Other/Wise Uncut 2014 appears over the course of three issues. The first appeared in April 2014 and featured 8 papers gathered loosely under a designation Lamentation: as witness, Bionian meditation, and play (authors Bennett, Miller, Barish, Cokuslu, Teitelbaum, Luborsky, Mandell, Gianotti), this is the second issue, and the final issue will appear before the end of the year.
Farrell Silverberg and Judith E. Vida