How to Learn The Art of Losing?

Updated on August 22, 2018

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop


Elizabeth Bishop wrote this poem in 1976. It is about mastering the art of losing. Elizabeth wrote it in response to some of her own losses in life but for the reader, it has a universal theme. I would not indulge in the technicalities of this poem to analyze it. I will focus on how this poem generates and promotes the strength and courage to the wounded souls in the world. How can we all learn this “One Art” of Losing in our life without being afraid of being lonely?

What is losing in a true sense of the words?

Today, the life has become complex and complicated. The people have become materialistic and hollow. They tend to be careless and often leave the fellow beings in grief by breaking up the relations forever. The affected ones take this all either to their mind or to their heart and live a devastated life in the end. They keep on grieving their loss forever. The “Losing” becomes so hard to digest for the broken souls. So I would like to take the “Losing” for a relationship and the people here in the article.

Why I love this poem

This poem is an inspiration to me since I read it. It tells about the courage requires to let go of things and people in life. This stimulates me every time when I am afraid of losing something. It teaches me to be strong in pursuing this art of losing in life. The very first stanza is so powerful in inculcating the motivation in the reader to not to be afraid of the losing. It conveys the positivity of losing by telling that losing is not a disaster in life. People feel afraid of facing a loss in their life. This poem bucks up the reader with these powerful words to be brave enough to lose:

"The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

So many things seem filled with the intent,

to be lost that their loss is no disaster."

How losing is not a disaster?

The line of the first stanza is enough to guide us all. The people find it hard to survive after losing their loved ones. Their precious belongings with their memories leave them in chaos. But I find this very opening to be a message of practicing losing in our daily life. We lose our belongings like clothes, accessories, and things daily. Do we lose heart too with them? No! We learn to live by the fact that they are daily usage stuff which can be lost any moment sooner or later in the life. But we do lose our heart when someone betrays us or leaves us in the life. The loss is so permanent in life that it engulfs our whole being out of us and turn us into “Living dead” instead of humans. It is the end of our world and we think ourselves to be responsible for such losses. Elizabeth promotes the idea of practicing the losing on daily basis in the next stanzas to master it:

"Lose something every day. To accept the fluster

Of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

Places, and names, and where it was you mean,

To travel. None of these will bring disaster."

This has to be the key in life to practice losing more and more. It leads us to the point that the losses do not break us apart. Finally leading us to master losing the dear and near ones as well.

Adding a personal element

Elizabeth Bishop added the personal element to the poem by narrating her loss of parents in these words:

"I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last, or

Next-to-last, of three loved houses, went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master."

She claims to practice the art of losing since her childhood time. When at first her father died and later her mother had a nervous breakdown. This made her so strong. She had declared that she did miss her parents. But after all, it was not wise to lose her own life too in that lifetime grief. This subjectivity is the most precious element of the poem. She has confessed her losses to the reader to make a connection with the devastated souls. She is giving them the inspiration by relating to their loss. She presented them the remedy to overcome it by looking at her lifetime loss of the parents and the home in these strong words:

"I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

Some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster."

Challenging the art of losing

Elizabeth has challenged the art of losing by claiming that it looks like a disaster to live with the loss in life. Once the person has mastered the art of losing then nothing stands in his ways. When this art has been fully learned and practiced he becomes ruthless in losing in life :

"Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

The art of losing’s not too hard to master

Though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster."

In the above lines, it seems as if she is mocking the art itself. When she writes "the joking voice" that even losing her beloved is not that hard for her. She lost her life partner to suicide. She bravely accepts the fact that "losing" has been a part and parcel of her lonely life. It did not make her weak instead made her too strong to be carefree of the “losing” forever in the life. She declares proudly that she has mastered this art now urging the reader to follow her example. Be brave enough to let go of the people and memories though it seems in appearance as a havoc. Later once we develop this habit of letting go, it turns out to be serene and calm at the end.

Tips to Overcome the Loss

  • Make peace with your past by either writing it all up and then burn it forever. You can write a whole diary to take out your feelings at the loss and burn it all up. Believe it, this will make you feel at ease at the end.
  • Do not panic when someone breaks up with you. It is all around us. People come and leave it is all in the pattern of Nature. Nothing lasts forever after all and neither does your loss.
  • Try to make a connection with the Mother Nature. Take a walk through the meadows. Spend time in Nature. Meditate and relax your soul by associating to the Natural objects around you. Psychology says “Green” color soothes the souls. So go in the green and soothe your wounded soul.
  • Music is also a therapy to console and calm you. Be careful only to listen to jingles that make you happy not the songs that remind you of the ones you have left. I would suggest trying the songs you have never liked to listen to earlier. Change is good at times. So change your playlist.

  • Makeshifts to drift in such case of losing the people. If possible change your job, place or town may be. It works believe it or not. Change is again a Natural phenomenon. Even seasons change. So accept the change and be the change.
  • Read a lot! It does wonder. Read positive stuff. Avoid the reciprocated love stories but the real stories from the real world.
  • Read biographies of the famous people. You will find them relatable and of course the life lessons of survival in case of losses in the life.
  • Stay in good company and only of those who are true friends to you. Avoid people who remind you constantly of your loss and your loneliness. Be with those who want to be there for you in times of your low time. In simple the true friends!
  • Last but not the least, learn the art of enjoying your own company. Believe it! This works wonder when you become your own strength nothing can break you. Be a guide, a motivator and an inspiration to your own self. Remind daily that you have come this far and can survive it. Always remember:

"The damaged people are dangerous because they know they can survive!"

Inspire Yourself

© 2018 Tajwer Shakir


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