Tuan on Loss

Yi-Fu Tuan on loss

These incidents lead me to think how two human beings ought to treat each other. One way is the giving of self–giving another person something you possess. The other way is to welcome someone into your home, world, and self. Both can result in a feeling of loss. Obviously, if you give someone your lawnmower or book, you will sooner or later feel a lack of these things: a part of you is gone. To get around this feeling of loss and, indeed, acquire a feeling of gain and enrichment, you must truly give–give with the understanding that the lawnmower or book is put to better use in your neighbor’s hand. You won’t miss it then. You will feel pleased that a part of you has escaped the iron bars of selfhood to increase, however minutely, the well-being and happiness of another. In practice, what does true giving entail? It entails not lending. “Never lend!” is a Tuanian categorical imperative, one—needless to say—I do not always follow.

The second feeling of loss is paradoxical. How can receiving—taking someone into your life—be felt as a loss? Well, the obvious answer is that you lose your privacy. You get the feeling that cracks are developing in your carefully-constructed world of habits and routines. The cure is two-fold. One is to understand that your carefully-constructed world needs shattering. Being made aware of that need is one great service that the person who enters your life can perform. The other is to see all the riches the other brings in, riches that unfold slowly over time.

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