Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Inherent in Suffering

Inherent in Suffering

Inherent in most suffering,
especially that of the mind or heart,

is feeling, is believing that you can miss
something in life.

But that is not true.
For on your wedding day with the Sun,

one of His presents to you will be -
if you want it -
every experience that has ever been known
or can be known.

Yes, a divine treasure awaits each soul.

                There are two poems I'd like to share along with this post. The first is Musee des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden, based off of the painting "Fall of Icarus" (by Breughel, seen below).

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The Old Masters; how well, they understood 
Its human position; how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; 
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting 
For the miraculous birth, there always must be 
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating 
On a pond at the edge of the wood: 
They never forgot 
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course 
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot 
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse 
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. 
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away 
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone 
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green 
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen 
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

                 The poem juxtaposes suffering with joy, ordinary with extraordinary, the idea that life goes on (the miraculous) while Icarus's death happens (tragedy). And the very humanizing message is that this is exactly what happens, life continues in the presence of individual suffering. I'm not purposefully attempting a dismal post, because I believe that hope festers inside all human souls, but I think it's important to keep the tomorrow-is-not-a-guarantee aspect of life in mind as well. Certainly no one should live with this as their focal point, but at the same time, it becomes necessary to recognize your time is limited in order to really enjoy the multifaceted experience of life. Below is a poem by Effie Waller Smith, whose parents were slaves, entitled "Preparation".

"I have no time for those things now," we say;
"But in the future just a little way,
No longer by this ceaseless toil oppressed,
I shall have leisure then for thought and rest.
When I the debts upon my land have paid,
Or on foundations firm my business laid,
I shall take time for discourse long and sweet
With those beloved who round my hearthstone meet;
I shall take time on mornings still and cool
To seek the freshness dim of wood and pool,
Where, calmed and hallowed by great Nature's peace,
My life from its hot cares shall find release;
I shall take time to think on destiny,
Of what I was and am and yet shall be,
Till in the hush my soul may nearer prove
To that great Soul in whom we live and move.
All this I shall do sometime but not now--
The press of business cares will not allow."
And thus our life glides on year after year;
The promised leisure never comes more near.
Perhaps the aim on which we placed our mind
Is high, and its attainment slow to find;
Or if we reach the mark that we have set,
We still would seek another, farther yet.
Thus all our youth, our strength, our time go past
Till death upon the threshold stands at last,
And back unto our Maker we must give
The life we spent preparing well to live.

Fall of Icarus (1560s), Breughel 

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