I don’t know exactly what it is about our society that somehow “dis-allows” us to experience pain in our lives.
Is it the pharmaceutical companies who are now so prevalently advertising miracle cures for every illness? Is it the myth of “American ingenuity” that tells us to “just do it”? Is it the corporate culture, fraught with insidious catch-phrases such as “forward thinking”, “being proactive”, “run with the big dogs”? Is it the 20th century phenomenon of snow-birds who move south in the winter to avoid the harshness of winter? Is it the trendy shift to marking a death with a “life celebration” instead of a funeral? Or is it how our spirituality has dissolved like sugar into a sticky syrupy goo that expresses itself in something like The Secret or Joel Olstein’s Become a Better You?
All of these things can be helpful, yes. But are they speaking to truth?
I admit my own issues in this. For those of you that know the Enneagram, I’m a 9. I can reframe anything into a pretty picture. My avoidance of pain and negativity knows no bounds when I’m “at my best.” My own personal catch-phrase should be something like “Silver-linings-R-US” So, those of you who have read any of my posts on here might be a bit confused because for the most part, I don’t dwell on the sunny side of the street.
The explanation is a simple one. I don’t find it particularly helpful in my search for truth to refuse to look into the shadows and boarded-up doorways of my life. I don’t think it’s very wise for me to continue to view the painful parts of my life as that which needs to be reinterpreted through an “enlightened” mind. I don’t believe that I’m meant to hold back from expressing myself anymore for fear that I might offend someone.
I am thankful for the wisdom of the Christian liturgical cycle, Easter joy, Pentecost glory, Advent/Christmas maturity and Lenten desolation. My Lenten discipline this year was to give up sugar and shopping… two of my most heavily used crutches for when I want to escape from something painful. I was not 100% successful, but then discipline is not about always withstanding the temptation. Discipline is about coming back when you’ve missed the mark. But that’s a whole ‘nother post…
However, this same tradition, which is intimately tied to Judaism, also contains remnants of this need to “fix” our experience. I submit the following examples: the golden calf made out of desolation when Moses didn’t come back fast enough, the overthrow and destruction of the people who originally lived in the promised land, turning Jews into scapegoats throughout the centuries, the entire book of Proverbs. Even Job, most likely the oldest text in the Hebrew Bible and arguably one of the most difficult for people to accept, has been found by recent scholars to have been tampered with by later (but still ancient) textual editors in an attempt to make Job’s experience more palatable. Humanity, it seems, has never been able avoid the attempt to make ourselves feel better.
But why should we feel better? Do we really think that feeling better is the same as feeling free? Is “comfort” the same as liberation? Is happiness the same as salvation?
I say no.
I say that to think that life should be ever-comfortable and “nice” is an affront to our own humanity and ultimately an affront to the ground of being from which we come.
… said the person who loves bubble-baths and chocolate and massages and IKEA. Yay irony!
My point is this… that I have no choice. I have to continue digging in the dirt, finding the roots of my own false identity, regardless of what I find there. This is my “engaged spirituality”, this is my holy work.
If I’m not willing to meet and engage with the darker parts of myself, then I never see my whole experience. It’s only when I’m able to welcome my whole experience, I am able to understand that all of it is precious… and therefore, all of me is precious.
And this, I say… is liberation.