The Duality of Adoration and Despair

I am in grief, as I believe much of the human world is these days. I ache for the oppressed even as I try to understand the oppressors.

Many people I know seem to be grappling with this:

“How can I find joy in a world that contains so much suffering?” “How can I love life when cruelty thrives?”

“How can I love God when a devil lives on my shoulder?”

Photo by Visualsamit (Morguefile)

It seems too easy to feel outrage at the actions of others, be they physical or verbal, direct or indirect, and so my sadness and shame and confusion turns personal. It’s taken me a long time to understand that the concept of Original Sin is dealing with the fact that we as humans are so very capable of evil. It’s in our gene pool. By Evil, I mean we seem to thrive on beating down someone else, pushing their face in the dirt because we’re feeling brutal and angry, and it’s their fault. In these times in particular, many of us relish this anger, seek it out, wade in with fists clenched for battle! Conservatives and liberals alike. #Ownvoices. We are all human.

The news is scary, almost every second of it. And disheartening. Sometimes I feel like it is ripping my heart out of my body. And the worst for me is when I just don’t understand why people think the way they seem to think. I don’t want to listen to another diatribe filled with name-calling. I don’t want to be reminded how much people fall in love with rhetoric, fall in love with being part of an angry mob; I too feel that energy. I like marching with my causes!

Photo by GaborfromHungary (Morguefile)

Sometimes I think we humans are just in one big sports arena, championing our sides, pouring money into the MY TEAM concept of it all.

I know a lot of people are finding concrete projects, things to do, actions to take that make them feel like they are doing something to change the way the human world operates. We march, we speak out, we run for office, we collect books for homeless children, we feed the hungry, we sing to the sick. We show we care in whatever way we can.

I recently attended a talk by a minister at the Center for Spiritual Living near where I live who reminded us all about the power of Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.” In this poem, Oliver says, “Tell me about despair, yours, and¬† I will tell you mine.” But her next line is, “Meanwhile, the world goes on. ” The poem ends with a series of “meanwhiles” describing the rich delights our world gives us to bring peace and a deep sense of belonging:

the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

at Silver Falls Park, OR

“The world goes on–appreciate it!” has become my latest mantra. It reminds me to notice the world in its glory, to let my anguish over politics and killings co-exist with my delight in the color of the leaves, the glories of a gorgeous fall day. To take what I am offered and exult. To adore the fact that I am human and alive at the same time that I know, in my heart, that our human behavior–my personal behavior!–is so terribly abusive to other life forms on this planet, even (especially, it sometimes seems) to our own.


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