June 21, 2016 § 2 Comments
Like most people, I’ve grown sadly accustomed to the horrors of the daily news, the sight of voracious rage that pits people against one another, and the sound of a most unruly world continually exploding. Each day, the images of mankind at its cruelest make me grow increasing weary. It’s a sobering spectacle that could make even the most religious person question God, and could afford most atheists a convincing argument for their beliefs.
It hurts to watch.
There are unimaginable cruelties perpetrated on children, on animals, and on those who have done nothing more than seek the same joy that each of us so badly desires. There are things that I wish I never knew existed, actions I wish I never knew were possible, and feelings I wish no human being would ever have to feel.
It hurts me to learn about them.
And so, I spent too many of my days drowning in the sea of things I never wished to know or to see. For much too long, they preoccupied my thoughts and overwhelmed me. Until the day finally came when I understood: these seas also harbored miracles; ones I had simply chosen to ignore. Until then, my focus had been only on the seas of misery, for I had developed a blindness for all of the wonderful things in life.
I had become blinded to the joy in people’s smiles, and had deemed the wagging tail of a dog irrelevant. I had been sightless as the sun rose, and the smallest of seeds grew into beautiful and fragrant flowers. And because it hurt so much to watch all the misery, I had begun to shut my emotions off like a spigot; to cauterize the nerve endings in my mind, and seal my soul off from the practice of living.
But blocking everything to avoid the horrors of life is no way to live. This is because to do this eliminates all things, even the good ones. Long ago, I once heard Leo Buscaglia say, “I’d rather feel pain than feel nothing.” I did not understand him at the time, but I do now. I understand that in avoiding pain, we often block out everything good in the process. Our fear of pain effectively dulls our experience of life, causing us to miss out on all the beautiful things that the news never talks about. In fearing the waves of everyday life, we often fail to see that in every moment of every day, somewhere in the word, the seas part. In every moment, much of what is most simple is most miraculous. In every moment, we’re sailing on oceans where wonders are not just the exception; they are the rule.
I now understand that painful, ugly things are the price of admission for this ability to see miracles, because the experience of awe comes with a price tag: the responsibility to see the world as it really is, not just with its abundant grace and beauty, but with all of its imperfections too.
Every now and then, I look out of my window after watching the nightly news and hearing the ugliness of the day. I see the Rockies in the distance, and the incredibly beautiful sunset. I think about the times that I’ve stood at the top of Pike’s Peak, with the wind blowing in my face and the breathtaking panorama all about me. I think about the snow-capped mountains I am blessed to look at regularly, and I remember standing on the beach at sunrise in the Outer Banks of North Carolina nearly 20 years ago. I recall the words I heard in the wind that came off of the ocean that day: “What has created this will no doubt take care of you.” Even with the news blaring in the background, on the days when I think of this, I can’t help but smile.
No, I will never fully accept the horrors of this world. Rest assured, I have no great affinity for the pain. But what I’ve finally come to realize is that I love the gain. That’s why I’m willing to pay the price of admission.