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New Philosopher - Issue 42 - Loss


Issue 42: The 'Loss' edition

“Great lords, wise men ne’er sit and wail their loss,
But cheerly seek how to redress their harms.”
- William Shakespeare

If being wise is our aim, suggests William Shakespeare, then lamenting our losses should be cast from our minds. Instead, he advises, we should find a way forward; a way to “redress their harms”.

The reality is, however, that the human mind tends to focus on what we no longer have; that which is no longer present. A dead father, a departed friend, a disinheritance, or disappearing youth – it matters not what our loss may be, when there once was something we now feel a hole; a gap. We are no longer whole. And in times such as these, it is difficult to feel anything but grief for the loss of a person or thing that made our lives feel complete.

But this sense of wholeness, of completeness, is but an illusion - loss is an inextricable part of the journey of being human, an unavoidable part of life. If our own experience is not enough to confirm this, we only need turn to the German philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, who both saw life as a series of losses, who argued that life itself was suffering. While Schopenhauer’s philosophy was somewhat pessimistic, Nietzsche believed that dealing with difficulties makes us who we are – he viewed suffering as “a hammer and instrument with which one can make oneself a new pair of wings”.

It seems that across the centuries, Shakespeare and Nietzsche concurred that an acceptance of loss is but the first step. It is how one responds to the loss and redresses it that matters most – how one uses the hammer of suffering to fashion a new pair of wings.

- Zan Boag, Editor-in-Chief, New Philosopher