Exploring the intersection where theory meets life.

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Beyond the Conjunction



It’s not every day that we get a chance to engage in juicy academic gossip AND a discussion of one of the emotions central to our lives! Move over Hume vs. Aquinas; Nussbaum vs. Butler is the real cage match we’ve all been clamoring for.

On our Grief/Depression episode [LINK], Diane and I didn’t have a chance to dive too deeply into Judith Butler’s philosophy, so you may not feel like you’re able to situate her clearly within the broader history of philosophy and gender studies.

You know who can help with this? Cats. CATS WILL HELP YOU.

I give you… Judith Butler explained with cats.

Image from  Binary This.

Image from Binary This.

Now if someone could just use cats to explain Heidegger, I’ll be set.

While they may wish we would pick sides, I think both Judith Butler and Martha Nussbaum make important points about something as ubiquitous and upending as grief. (I have to admit I will stan for Nussbaum every day of the week and twice on Sunday, but that is no slight against Butler.) Like so many emotions, grief shows us what we value and what we have let become part of ourselves. I have often been surprised by grief. I have experienced grief over lost relationships, lost opportunities, new realities. Even lost beliefs. (THE BOOK I COULD WRITE.) Each instance has enabled me to think seriously about what I value and to become more empathetic to the broader sufferings of others.

It’s remarkable how easily grief can morph into depression, particularly as we take seriously Butler’s directive to consider other sufferings, the sufferings of those we may not instinctively consider. I love Diane’s point that, because we are limited creatures, the best thing we can do is choose a couple causes that we can pour into and make the focus of our lives. This does not deny or denigrate the suffering of others who are not part of our causes, but it does allow us to make a real difference in our corner of the world and not get overwhelmed with the massive need in the world at large. It also gives us space to be available to love and help those closest to us.

It’s such an uncomfortable, profound reality that the deeper the love and joy of our relationships, the deeper the potential grief. The more we open ourselves up to love, the more we open ourselves up to grief.

My wish for you (and I’m sure Diane shares this wish) is that you are in relationships that mean something to your deep sense of self, in relationships that are so rich that they make deep grief possible in your life; that you have causes you care deeply about; that you have causes you can pour yourself into; and that you are able, if/when needed, to find the help you need to work through grief and loss to find joy again on the other side.

And in the meantime, if you ever need a little boost of beauty that takes you a bit out of yourself and makes you love human beings a bit more, definitely watch/listen to Brandy Carlisle’s 2019 Grammy performance. Maybe several times. Diane would never let you down.


Until next time.

xo, Jana

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