I recently stumbled across an article published by The Sun magazine in 2004 titled “The Wind Isn’t Depressed.” It is based upon conversation between authors Michael Ventura and Robert Bly about “art, madness, and the joy of loss.” Although there are certainly viewpoints expressed in the article I do not agree with, it did bring up an interesting point that I really liked and thought was worth sharing.
In one of Bly’s poems he writes,
“Why do we imagine that we are responsible for all
The pain of those near to us? The albatross that lands
On the mast began flying a thousand years ago.”
Ventura mentions that one reaction to this could be that it is an abdication of responsibility and that this cannot help us understand how we are responsible for each other’s pain. Bly responds to this by saying, “When something goes wrong in a marriage, and it all comes to grief, it’s our habit to think, It’s my fault. But from the view point of an older culture, each of us has had many past lives, and the suffering that you and your spouse just went through is not coming from your connection to each other. It’s coming from those past lives. The albatross began flying a thousand years ago.”
As we struggle with relationships, especially those that go sour, we are constantly fighting to try to figure out where the blame lies. In times when this is unclear, which is often, some of us default to blaming ourselves while others tend to blame the other person. Few of us embrace the perspective that sometimes the ultimate conflict between two individuals actually begins way before they even met, in all the past moments of their lives, and in the lives of those before them that have had an impact on the person they have become. Although I certainly believe that there are times where it is important to accept responsibility in the failure of a relationship, I also believe that there are times when we should realize that there are forces in our lives pushing us in a certain direction, and that there are some crashes in life that we couldn’t have prevented even if we’d tried. In other words, you can’t blame everything on Bly’s ‘albatross’ but there is liberation and value in knowing that it’s there.