Sunday, November 22, 2015

Letting the light in

This wonderful line from Leonard Cohen, new to me, has to be shared:
"There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in."  Similarly, the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich spoke of wounds as "holes in the soul" where light--and life--can get through.

As I wrestled this week with pain and the body's various aches, I turned to this bit of wisdom, reminding me of life's imperfections and the positive lessons to be learned from contemplating a  global community that shares pain, fear (over the terrorism in Paris and elsewhere), and suffering.

What can pain teach us?  David Whyte has posed that question to himself many times, I would think, as his little book of reflections, Consolations, shows; and often there is an undercurrent of the positive breaking through the reality of suffering.

Although sometimes his sentences lose me by their level of abstraction so that he becomes opaque rather than lucid, Whyte has things to say about loneliness that illustrate what I mean.  Loneliness allows us to pay attention to others, he says, to find "the healing power in the other" even in the midst of our sadness.

In the silence of solitude, as Thomas Merton found, we can feel spiritually connected to other souls; and we can listen to our inner selves and the voices of authors we read before we emerge in the world again, ready to listen to those around us with real attention.

Without pain, would there be empathy?  For the Christian, of course, the crucified Christ embodies the world-suffering of humanity in such a totally unselfish way that the believer can feel saved, enlightened by the light that comes through the cracks.

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