"Stoicism is not about repressing your emotions and neglecting the truth of a situation . . . Learning to be in charge of your emotions rather than letting them control you is a powerful experience that grief can provide. Lean into your sorrow, but refuse to sulk." Daily Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Life.We humans lean into sorrow in a variety of ways. When we can experience loss while at the same time connecting with the soul of human experience, we search for words that capture transcendence and anguish simultaneously.
The phrase I use originated with a dear friend who introduced me to Albinoni's Adagio for Strings and Organ in G Minor, promising, "This will bring you to your knees."
And it did. Metaphorically I was "on my knees," in awe that such music is possible. Organically I experienced, in minor-key consonant chords, what one study refers to as "the neural correlates of the perception of beauty."
Consonant minor key chords are echoed in fictional depictions of loss that burn into our bones quietly.
Thus does Fiction Honorable Mention winner B.W. Jackson's "Inheritance" draw readers in, with stoic, sotto voce tones, to the unfolding of events in the life of Jacob and the dog Max:
. . . When Gabe was gone, Jacob returned to the living room and sat back down in the armchair next to the bookcase. . .
"Max," called Jacob.
The dog did not move. Jacob stood up in front of the bookcase, where some books had fallen down and others were leaning precariously. He let his eyes glide over the shelves, seeing only the negative space between the books. He looked across the room to the bare carpet, compressed where the legs of a sofa had been. The emptied room seemed to have shrunk. As Jacob stared at the carpet, Max slowly approached and nestled his head under his hand. . .
Jacob had moved back home to tend to his father . . . developed a routine . . began going through boxes of fabric and knickknacks in the attic . . ferreted out expired condiments in cabinets . . . Slowly, the house changed. . .
As clutter receded, Jacob added touches of carpentry . . With each passing year, Jacob's eyes opened to the beauty and character of the house. . .
In the year before his death, their father had suggested that Jacob should inherit the family home. The siblings had agreed that the house was fair compensation for Jacob's years as caretaker. . .
Every moment he had spent tending to his father, he devoted to working on the house.
Max stayed by his side.
When the movers were gone . . An enervating sadness swept over Jacob. He sensed that the soul of the house had fled. . . got down onto the hard floor on his knees and put his hands on Max. . . lay on his stomach next to the dog, remaining there with his hand on the dog's ribs until the sun went down . . .
"Richard. I didn't expect you."
The brothers nodded at each other. They shook hands. . .
Jacob slumped into the armchair next to the bookcase. Richard sat down adjacent from him, holding the book on his lap. Max roamed into the room and pushed his head beneath Jacob 's hand, which was hanging off the armrest.
"The kids want the dog, Jacob". . .
(Read the rest of B.W. Jackson's "Inheritance" (pp. 141-147) and other works
* * *B.W. Jackson lives in New York's Hudson Valley. His story "Write and Wrong" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.