An Essay from my new book:
"The Subtle Art of Suffering in the Balance of Love"
- Cover photo by Vijendra Singh -
The Suffering of Grief and Death
It seems that the pain of the universe is almost a neural path- way that extends far beyond earth, through the cosmos and directly into infinity. Digging down into the suffering of humanity, we tap into this endless source of knowledge and wisdom until it consumes us and we return to the reservoir once more. When someone dies it is almost like tugging on a plant until the entire root is unearthed. Every single thing that it came into contact with is damaged as it is uprooted from the ground. When Queen Elizabeth died in the late Summer of 2022 it felt like a limb was severed. I remember driving down the roadway North of Minneapolis when I felt like I was sud- denly hit with a sack of bricks. When a person that important dies it is almost as though everyone on the planet can feel it and draw some kind of insight from the pain. Perhaps you believe that when we die we go to heaven. Perhaps you believe that we are born again or that we are cast into the unknown of nirvana. There are many creation and afterlife stories in antiquity and the modern age. Most include some idea of judgment and establish a rule of law that determines where we will go and what kind of outcome that will have. We measure ourselves against our deeds when our life flashes before our eyes. It is up to us to decide whether the life we lived was worthy of praise, whether or not our soul can achieve greater things. I don't feel that it is really God or Saint Peter judging us. It is our honesty that judges our conscience. We look at our lives for the first time without any ego and make the decisions for ourselves about what we deserve. We commune with God and nature and wait for the outcome to arrive in our hearts. It's almost as though we know, our final thought is a comfort about where we are headed. I don't particularly believe in hell. Perhaps to lead a more virtuous second life would be the outcome for a person of ill repute. They would be given a second chance. When we die we discover the pain of death is something very familiar to us. It's the pain of heartbreak, the pain of losing someone we love. We often cling to the resurrection stone of our hearts as we are tossed into the fire of loss and sorrow. This agony we feel is the pain of death. When we lose a lover, a sibling, a parent or a child, we taste death for them. We experience pain for them. Our love is what carries them through to the other side. Our hearts are assaulted with severe hurt as our bodies seek to measure the difference, but they cannot be destroyed. We learn this as we get older that no matter the pain the heart continues to beat. They are made of the strongest substance on earth and can be completely decimated save a tiny fragment that can't be destroyed. We cling to it for life through these troubled moments. Some might say this tiny fraction, this atom of life is what we call the soul. Those who have felt this pain know that the soul exists. It resides in the heart and is the only thing left for us to hold onto when all is lost and we are turned to dust in our minds. The heart can be pierced but the knife always seems to miss this small, indestructible speck. It burns, it is obliterated but it can never even be scratched. If you have felt real agony you realize that it is there. You know it is real.
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of knowledge they were banished from heaven, seemingly forever. Their kin was given the opportunity to return but I feel they are still here, forever chained to the reincarnation cycle. The forbidden fruit for Adam was the knowledge of ultimate pain. He was given to mother nature to taste her essence. For Eve the fruit was the knowledge of ultimate pleasure which was given to her by God. As man and woman were both blessed by God and nature they became doomed to dance together for eternities on earth. Since the nature of the universe is pain it was the only way that God could keep the natural world happy. To allow man and woman to forever fall in love, over and over again in a cycle of endless romance. It is a small comfort to nature which churns and burns in an ocean of pain. Natural disasters are her cries and how weary she becomes, destroying her beloved children in her hurt. The love we feel for each other sustains her, a constant reminder of God's undying love. I don't think Adam and Eve could ever return to heaven. With the knowledge of ultimate pain and pleasure a place like heaven wouldn't seem enough. It wouldn't satisfy either man or woman. When we die we touch God's sacrifice through eternal time and rejoin his lineage. Whether we choose to commune with nature or God is up to us. Thanks to the suffering of Jesus and the sacrifice of Adam, death would never feel as hurtful to us as the forbidden sacrifice. We never need to suffer like that no matter the faith. Therein lies God's most sacred humor. We close our eyes to die and suddenly we exist in a world of suffering. We seem to thrash and gnaw in our thoughts. We cannot endure such pain and we wonder if we are in hell. It seems to go on for an eternity until something seems to snap and break. Suddenly our suffering is gone and we are light as a feather. We either float towards the light of God or remain in the darkened womb of Eve and nature. We finally find peace with our lives.
When a person has the urge to end their life prematurely it is almost like a baby bird suffering because his early life has come to fruition and he must now burst through the shell. We are in pain, suffering within and wanting to find a way out to burst through. The constant pecking hurts us so much that we feel like we have to die to be set free. This is not true. It is almost as though the light of the soul wants to burst forth, to inhabit our body from this tiny piece and send electricity throughout our nerves, connecting our bodies to this sacred pathway of pain. We suffer and suffer through the throws of life, sometimes wanting to die. If we cling through however we are granted the blessing of knowledge through the suffering of God. We touch Adam, we touch Nature and suddenly we have access to pleasure once more. We are given Eve. I only use the creation story as an analogy. You can attribute these things to any man or woman throughout history. Through pain we achieve pleasure. Through pleasure we also achieve pain. These forces are one in the same, man and woman, mother and father, God and nature. They are all connected with time, distance and the root of nothing. Reality seems to be constructed with pain and everything else is clear, infinite peace. I imagine it is the blank space that exists at the end of time. It is a place heaven created to allow us to find rest. In our mourning for lost loved ones we find this solace. In the back of my mind the root of suffering is not desire but deep, forbidden love. The impermanence of life that is not found in heaven causes us to suffer, but this suffering makes our passion all the deeper. The agony in the pleasure, the peace in the conflict. The balance that Khalil Gibran spoke of in his book “The Prophet.” Love in heaven is more blissful. It is innocent. It does not have depth like love does here. It is lighter than air, perfect and beautiful. To know love on earth is a type of forbidden fruit and when that passion is deep enough, we don't want to return to heaven. We want to taste it again and again just as Adam and Eve might have done. The truth is that our loved ones are all still here with us, either as beings on earth or through the sacred personal connection that everyone has to the divine. No one is closer or further away. We are all but a mixture of nature and God, a balance of love and mercy. When we allow our loved ones to return to this balance we find peace with them. We commune with them through our pain. We touch the love of nature. We touch the mercy of God and we finally find the balance of peace within ourselves. We find their love once again.
- February 10, 2023 -