Sunday, June 24, 2007

World Sorrow

by Holly
I used to like very serious movies with painful subject matter. No need for happy endings--I liked movies that depicted the sorrow of the human experience. Not that I don't still appreciate the art of honesty in film--but I just don't feel like I have the space to take it in. These days I only watch things that make me laugh. At the end of the day I don't need any more reminders of how painful living on earth is.

Lately, I've been pouring all my energy into work--and while the last month has been one that has been unparalleled with impact and significance for me, I'm tired and kind of stressed out. My body tends to take it on, so in an effort to surrender (and inspired by another yoga journal that Ryan sent me via the Celebration crew), I'm spending more time on my mat getting centered, grounded, and opening my heart, making some space in this crowded soul of mine.

There's an article in the journal about sadness and grief. Personally, I feel ridiculously blessed to have had an unfairly preserved life--If there is a reason, then I sometimes think it is so I have the capacity to feel more "Welt schmerz" or world sorrow--a sadness that arises without a personal cause--a transcendant feeling of pain for the state of the world. (apparently, this is written about in a book by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called the Sorrows of Young Worther, which I've never read but I'm now intrigued and if I can make enough space to handle something sad in my free time I will) I remember once calling my dad in tears, when I was having a crisis of faith and wondering if God was indeed good--and his first response was to ask whether it was me or a close friend who had experienced some great pain. It was neither, I was still in university and a war I opposed was starting and I was studying genocide and angry about unanswered prayer in Darfur and I just couldn't handle it anymore.

So, I've been thinking about the constructive potential of sadness--at the same time the risk of spiralling feelings of hopelessness and lack of vision that lead to a destination of either cynicism or resignation. The constructive potential is when we recognize that suffering is not personal but universal to the human experience. I say it has potential because the risk in recognizing the pervasiveness of suffering is that it can evoke paralysis, or feelings along the lines of the writer of Ecclesiastes, "everything is meaningless."

The other option is that it has the potential to inspire great compassion. I'd choose compassion over paralysis any day--but compassion is not a solitary discipline. I'm convinced that sorrow over the state of the world is channeled into creative and active compassion through community.

That means, as much as I enjoy doing yoga--I can't tranform strong negative emotions by myself--or just by realizing that I'm connected to everyone else, I think it's active, I have to be connected. God's spirit transforms through the experience of community.

It was a great blessing to have these beautiful people from Celebration in Lira. It was encouraging to be with them while they also wrestled with the tension between great compassion and debilitating hopelessness. It's a reminder that the struggle is worth it, and I'm grateful for their presence, from the first evening of receiving cards, books, and yummy things from home (Thank you everyone from CCC that sent us stuff!) to Solidarity Day in an IDP camp, to evening conversations, blueberry pancakes, lions in the rain, and swimming while overlooking the Nile.

1 comment:

jim peterson said...

One of the many things I love so much about the two of you is your honesty. Your words always strike such a familiar cord in our hearts. Thank you.

I am (usually) convinced (and other times hoping for all I'm worth!) that things really are much bigger and much more intertwined and connected then we can presently know or perceive. Therefore, I'm convinced that everything matters and no effort or struggle or anguish is wasted. I'm also convinced, as you articulated so well, that connected-community is Gods essential design for “constructive sadness”, "creative compassion", "transformation", and fullness in this world.

Regarding movies, you are not alone. My preferences past and present parallel yours, and for the same reasons.

The struggle is worth it; it matters. Thank you for continuing on each day. Much love,
jim