Lingering at the Edges of Experience

Morgan Meis in The Porch Magazine:

You should sit low, not on a chair or a stool or a couch. A small crate will do the job. Or anything that is lower than 9.5 inches from the ground. You can’t shave or cut your hair. You can’t have sex. You shouldn’t take a shower, though you may do some light swabbing of your especially funky bits, as well as dousing your feet and hands in cold water now and again. You can’t greet people in the normal way. You definitely cannot work. No freshly laundered clothes. The list of things you cannot do is long.

What you can do is mourn. You can weep and wail, and you are encouraged to talk about the loved one who has recently died. You aren’t to take care of yourself, but to allow everyone else– family, the community–take care of you. You are to throw yourself helplessly upon other people, and you are to confront the feelings of sorrow and loss, to bring them to the surface and let those intense feelings have their place.

This is sitting shiva. It’s how observant Jews have been dealing with grief since ancient times.

In Ari Aster’s recent film Midsommar, a terrible thing happens. A young woman named Dani (Florence Pugh) loses her sister and parents in a ghoulish suicide/homicide. Hellish stuff, the stuff of nightmares. If anyone has ever needed help grieving, it is Dani. If anyone has ever needed a community to fall back upon, it is Dani. Does she get it? Of course not. She is, like many people living in the contemporary, globalized, post-modern world, more or less without a community in any functional sense of the word.

More here.