Loss and survivance

Leave a comment

You can lose a lot of things. Your door keys. Your temper. The plot. 

If you’re particularly careless, you might even lose entire countries. 

Ukraine is on the edge right now. It’s not the first.

Doggerland was a piece of prehistory, a stretch of marshy coastline from when Britain was just an archipelago dangling from one corner of Europe. It was misplaced during the Original Brexit 9,000 years ago when the sea carved East Anglia away from the Netherlands. 

It was only rediscovered in the 1930s.

Today, Jakarta is sinking into the ocean. Rather than lose a capital city, Indonesia’s just moving it somewhere else.

You lose things as you grow older. People, places, memories. Some of them you can control, come back from. Some you can’t. 

Sometimes people disappear. Or they can be disappeared. Sometimes they’re gone, even if they’re not even really lost.

Roy Scranton wrote about what loss can teach us. When the Europeans slaughtered their way across the Americas, he says, “truly, a world ended. Many worlds, in fact. Each civilization, each tribe, lived within its own sense of reality—yet all these peoples saw their lifeworlds destroyed.”

I think about those lines, those lifeworlds, a lot.


David Marchese asked Eddie Vedder about loss: he turned the story around.

Scranton introduced me to a new term to describe what happens when you lose it all. 

You fight back by commiting an act of survivance

That’s what Gerald Vizenor, the Anishinaabe poet, calls it.

Derrida wrote about survivance too. He called it something between life and death, the continuous reanimation of a living-dead being.

Indonesia is survivance. Turning the story around is survivance. The people of Doggerland were survivance, too.

Maybe we might all have to be it one day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s