Creative suffering

27 Nov

Another superb quotation derived from a student’s essay.
This time, it offers helpful reflection on the way we can gain insight and healing, through suffering and pain.

So much nonsense is said on this subject!
I for one do not want to add to the truckloads of trite or escapist-pious sayings, which try to pour sugar coating over the reality of people’s pain, anguish and suffering.
I have no desire to add theological justifications for what is simply rotten, in the way so many people and groups behave, and the abuse or sorrow suffered by many people.

But I have, in my own life journey and in the lives of people I have known, seen creative and helpful ways of living these experiences—and I have seen less creative and less helpful responses.

Someone once said to me that the difference between human beings is not whether or not we have suffered; the difference is what we do with our suffering.

This brings me to this superb quotation, from Matthew Fox’s book Original Blessing (published back in 1993):

Fox writes: The Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa left us a powerful image of dealing with pain when he said we must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. The image that comes to my mind on hearing this advice is the following: we pick up our pain as we would a bundle of sticks for a fireplace; we necessarily embrace these sticks as we move across the room to the fireplace; then we thrust them into the fire, getting rid of them, letting go of them; finally we are warmed and delighted by their sacrificial gift to us in the form of fire and heat and warmth and energy.

In no way do I suggest that this is an easy thing. It is not easy to let go of our pain. Sometimes we fear the very thing we need to do, to ‘pick up the sticks’ and ’embrace them’. Or we fear to let go of them. The familiar anguish is at least something we know well, and have gotten used to.
And healing does not often happen just so easily and so quickly as the time it takes for a fire to burn some sticks.
Sometimes we need to do this several times over. The pain we thought we had put to rest comes again, and needs to be dealt with another time. This is very common with grief. It comes back, again and again.
Some suffering is never finished.  Rather, we develop ways to live with the aftermath of tragedy, violation, abuse, disappointments.
Still, we are given the choice. Grace invites us to live again, even if it is living as the person who has known this hurt, or done this wrong: we can ’embrace’ it, and live again.
This is not denial. It is reality. Fair dinkum. And as we do this, we discover we are not as alone as we might have thought. The walking wounded are a remarkably large community!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *