Wisdom is often is often said to begin with a meditation on death or, at the deepest level, with our attempt to cope with the death of another: with our passage through loss, grief, mourning, the risk of despair. Stories of loss and renewal help us to work again, love again, and walk with a lighter step again. Stories of inconsolable grief remind us that there is something absolute in loss: that we are never the same after certain losses, no matter what we tell ourselves. What do the inconsolable see? This essay takes up this question through readings of the story of Orpheus in Virgil and Rilke and the story of Ruth in Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. These stories acknowledge the absolute quality of loss while at the same time disclosing a further clearing, a clearing beyond the ordinary course of things, the kind of clearing we call spiritual.
- Marilynne Robinson