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Jonathan Lear:

Freud said that mourning is a “great riddle,” and its greatness partially consists in its not being the kind of riddle that gets solved. Mourning, he says, is “one of those phenomena which cannot themselves be explained but to which other obscurities can be traced back.” In essence, mourning is one of the ways we exercise our capacity for love. We get attached to people and ideals, thoughts and projects that are themselves vulnerable. And we respond to that vulnerability by becoming active ourselves in making sense of what it all meant or will continue to mean. Other animals suffer loss; other animals grieve in complex ways. If we want, we can call that mourning. But our form of mourning is an attempt to turn loss into a reanimated gain—in imagination, thought, emotion and, importantly, symbolic expression. We make human meanings, and when we can share these meanings publicly it is constitutive of the formation of culture. Aristotle lived; Aristotle died: it is only our activity that transforms this change into loss and into a certain kind of gain.