There are no words for love
When a great man dies, as Nelson Mandela did last night, it is tempting to share your feelings and say what you think about it. You want to honor a great hero, a good man, and an inspiration for our times. Immediately after the news, social media was awash with touching tributes. Memes with Mandela’s face and a quote were hastily assembled and posted.
It is normal human nature to express what we feel, and to a large extent, of course it’s good for us. It helps us stick together and support each other, as the human community that we are.
And it isn’t for me or anyone else, to tell you how to grieve. Grief finds its own expression, unique to each person. Some people crave silence, others need to wail; most of us do both at different stages of our process.
But I want to say please remember, that expression is not the only way to love and honour a man.
Expression is, in fact, one step removed from feeling. It may feel simultaneous, but if you were to slow things down, it would become clear that you cannot fully go inside to connect with feeling, and direct expression outwards, at the same time.
Fully connecting with feeling takes everything you’ve got. It takes your whole heart. It’s why every religion worth its salt emphasises silence and contemplation.
In a subtle way, we in fact often use expression as a way not to feel. It’s a way of keeping ourselves busy, side-stepping reality, while still thinking that – and looking to others like – we are engaging with it.
Today and maybe tomorrow too, I want to lower the flag. I want to honour his memory by feeling fully what his impact on my life was. My heart feels full and overpouring, grateful that he gave himself to us and showed us what a worthwhile life looks like. There are no words for love.