The problem of Orpheus

Title: The problem of Orpheus

Genre: Mythology

Written in 2015

I rather think that, with what we’ve heard of Orpheus, the lesson is clear.

Do not look back.

Would Orpheus have had his Eurydice when he stepped into the living world?

What might have happened if Izanagi had not looked to see his Izanami?

We who lose those we love look back in our grief, and are thus not found in the living world ourselves, clinging too tightly to the dead.

The moment we realize that life is not behind, but before us, the moment we look ahead and not back, we take hold of our beloved dead, and they are with us forever. We do not linger in the land of the dead, for we are living, and in living we bring the memory of our beloved dead with us.

We do not look back at the dead, for then we lose them as we lose ourselves—we are too grieved to live, too grieved to move forward, and therefore their memory rots, for our hearts are weak and we do not keep them in our living memory, neither speaking freely of their beauty and their joy nor bearing to remember them for fear of pain.

Do not look back, for though pain and sadness are friends of death, we must not wait in death’s halls, for death is kind to new tenants, but less so to unwanted guests.

We must not clutter death’s doorstep with an excess of grief, we must not be stagnant.

Our beloved dead, or so we who live like to think, look through the windows of their new homes in death’s halls, and I rather think they’d be weary of watching us cry and wail for all time, marring their living memory and erasing the joy of their lives.

I rather think they’d like to see life go on after them, and for their name to be repeated past their death with joy and praise, for people who loved them to remember what they loved, and to be loved in turn by people who never knew them.

Do not look back at the dead, for then they become nothing more than rot and shadow, and are lost to the living world.

Look forward and live life as you do, honouring their memory, and perhaps in that way you may keep them forever.


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