‘Precarious Life’

If you haven’t read ‘Precarious Life’ by Judith Butler, you haven’t lived.

“When we lose certain people, or when we are dispossessed from a place, or a community, we may simply feel that we are undergoing something temporary, that mourning will be over and some restoration of prior order will be achieved. But maybe when we undergo what we do, something about who we are is revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that these ties constitute what we are, ties or bonds that compose us. It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost “you” only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well.”

I found myself unable to move past the lines above. I kept returning to them, reading and re reading, trying to fully understand the depths of her language. My comprehension came in whispers. The words gradually began to resonate. Yes I understood the plain meaning of what she was saying. On the surface I was able to comprehend her explanation of loss as something that does not pertain to the loss of an other, but also, the loss of a self. This I was able to understand. However, I found myself searching for meaning in the nuance of these words.

Is loss temporary if you lose part of yourself? Can you fully mourn someone if part of your being needs grieving as well? Can you ever return to a whole if along the way you’ve lost pieces of yourself in those whose losses you mourned? With each loss you grieve, you lose part of your own composition, how then does one restore an order that no longer exists? Are we really independent of one another, or just a culmination of the bonds we have with others?

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