13 min

VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING Tribute Podcasts

    • Society & Culture

This piece takes its name from John Donne's poem of the same name. I checked my
emails on the way home from a conference on antibiotic resistance and there was a
round robin email asking for my favourite poem. I sent them 'A Valediction:
Forbidding Mourning', a beautiful, clever poem in which Donne argues that love
creates a connection between people that is unbreakable. At one point he uses the
image of a thread of gold that runs from one to the other: I've used this image with
my children when they didn't want me to go away, and I think of this thread often
when I'm far from my loved ones. It's comforting, because it allows me to feel a
connection. That connection, that pulling on the heart strings, is what this piece is about. That, and the fast-approaching horror of the post-antibiotic era, where people
will die from previously minor ailments. What strikes me most about this awful
prospect is that it doesn�t make sense: we are programmed to believe things get better,
not worse. So how do we cope when they don't? How do we cope when we lose
someone we love, especially if it's a loss that seems unfair or illogical? We mostly
accept nowadays that talking is helpful, but what if that goes against our instincts?
And if talking about it is helpful, who should we be talking to? These are the
questions at the heart of this piece.

This piece takes its name from John Donne's poem of the same name. I checked my
emails on the way home from a conference on antibiotic resistance and there was a
round robin email asking for my favourite poem. I sent them 'A Valediction:
Forbidding Mourning', a beautiful, clever poem in which Donne argues that love
creates a connection between people that is unbreakable. At one point he uses the
image of a thread of gold that runs from one to the other: I've used this image with
my children when they didn't want me to go away, and I think of this thread often
when I'm far from my loved ones. It's comforting, because it allows me to feel a
connection. That connection, that pulling on the heart strings, is what this piece is about. That, and the fast-approaching horror of the post-antibiotic era, where people
will die from previously minor ailments. What strikes me most about this awful
prospect is that it doesn�t make sense: we are programmed to believe things get better,
not worse. So how do we cope when they don't? How do we cope when we lose
someone we love, especially if it's a loss that seems unfair or illogical? We mostly
accept nowadays that talking is helpful, but what if that goes against our instincts?
And if talking about it is helpful, who should we be talking to? These are the
questions at the heart of this piece.

13 min

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