Albatross: the film, the symbol, the whole beautiful catastrophe…

…Grief is not sadness. Grief is love. Grief is a felt experience of love for something lost or that we are losing…. I think we all carry that abiding ocean of love for the miracle of our world.

—Chris Jordan


Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. … Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am. ….

Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

–From The Graduate


I just watched Albatross (2018).

It was a hallowed gift to watch this film.

I believe it deserves an Oscar, and more fittingly, a BigBird and a Snuffelupagus, as well. 

 It is a spiritual experience, which may sound like a cliche, but it probably more an understatement.  While it is a profoundly, sumptuously gorgeous film, it is not an easy one. It is a visually stunning and mesmerizing elegy to the beauty of all life, and the aching beauty and life within Grief.
It is also a most sublime charnal grounds practice. It reaches into the heart to stretch it: To  awaken the courage to stare down death, fear and other ghosts, and let them penetrate your armored vision until you see only beauty;
To summon the capacity  to distinguish between complicity and guilt, to accept the first without turning away and freezing with the other.
 If your familiarity with the albatross extends only as far as Disney characters, literary symbolism and a few snaps from science-books, the film offers revelation and romance.  But it takes you much deeper. Here too, the Albatross is a symbol…many layers deep.
The film has the intimate power not only of a death bed vigil for someone you love, but also witnessing of a birth; the heartrending awe inspired by the grace, persistence, fragility, innocence and soul of all Life.
But these are just words.
This is a film to be experienced, to let call forth your Humanity: your Love, your courage and your forgiveness.
The first quote above are words of the film’s narrator, Chris Jordan, spoken toward the end. I came across them in some context years before the film was released, and the quote has since been rotating in the random signature generator of my email program!  So stirring to hear them come to life in their original context.
What about the second quote?
Watch the film.
…When you’re ready. 
You can stream or download it at: 

Hanging Questions

The only experience I had with Anthony Bourdain was through interviews; the only experience of his TV shows was through audio clips. I never read Kitchen Confidential. Through the interviews I glimpsed a strong and articulate personality; he struck me as a rebel who had found a cause. Hearing of his suicide, I wondered if the recipe for a rebel contains a lot of overlapping ingredients with the recipe for depression.  Even so, without more details, my intuitions resisted the report that his death was suicide.  He had sounded so dedicated to his late in life role of Dad. How could he abandon his 11-year-old, I wondered.

I wondered this even though I know from experience how blinding depression is.  In a segment on NPR today with Michel Martin and Roxanne Roberts (who have lost loved-ones to suicide) and Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a comparison was made to the numerous  fatalities of people lost in Minnesota snow storms who stagger around blind until they finally give up, lie down and perish, to be found later only 100 feet from a farmhouse. Depression is like that, how it dulls and smothers the soul in the cold illusion of isolation, hopelessness, and often ill-worth.  In both circumstances, observers wonder why they couldn’t have kept going just a little longer.  Of course, those of us who have navigated that psychological grey-out know we could just as easily wonder they held on as long as they did.

The NPR commentators also discussed how, if their loved ones could have only heard all that was said at their funerals, how many people valued them and wanted them to stay alive, they might have stuck it out.  Yes, maybe.

But I also know that depression creates compelling mirages in perception and personality. Even in enviable life circumstances, a person can succumb to a strange, thick swathing of inconsolability, can slip into the gravity of a black hole from which emanates a prejudicial undertow, a broadcast of “I am not enough.”

I was moved as I listened, as my own loneliness pressed itself to the surface of my heart. I am blessed in many ways, but I have so many isolating factors in my life; and while I need and love solitude, I know great loneliness, as well. This especially as I go through not only the challenges of my physical and fiscal circumstances, but the purgative vicissitudes of a mystic, metabolizing the loneliness of her ancestors.

Our modern life makes this far worse. We often think everybody else thinks they’re okay, and we should look that way, too. But few of us are, no matter how many face-book friends we have, no matter how full our lives are of vapid tweeting. We are alone, even in the crowd, conditioned as we are to tend and protect our gardens of individuality.

However, as long as we are born naked, chances are that we aren’t really designed to thrive without real community, which is the unconditional net we weave together that accommodates everyone’s weaknesses and is in fact fortified by these as much as by our strengths. It is fellowship made resilient by honest vulnerability, lubricated by our humility and tears, and galvanized by laughter.

Perhaps the cumulative impact of all the school shootings, combined with the antics of our uber-narcissistic president, two more high-profile suicides and new sobering suicide statistics out this week will spawn another sort of #MeToo movement, a Me-True movement, in which we make our gloriously imperfect humanity a focus of collaborative compassion and celebration.

Reach across the gap today tell someone you appreciate them; they may need it more than you, or even they, know. It costs you nothing. In a world of “not enough,” Love always increases in the sharing.