The Gift of Sadness (Part 2)

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The Gift of Sadness (Part 2)

Now the reality is you will find injustice everywhere you look for it. At a mainstream chain family restaurant with my family (we had a gift card) we started talking to the hostess. She was a very laid back, pleasant upper-middle ages hispanic woman.

It was just after Christmas. She admitted to working too much over the holidays (“I can never say no to a shift”) to get her kids stuff and to try to fix her van. As a hostess there - not a waitress, she probably makes only $7 or so an hour.

She probably does not have a college education, was over-weight, and generally schlump-y. As I began to feel sad for her I realized that my being sad for her doesn’t change her situation or make it any better. My sadness does not help.

I will never forget playing music at a homeless shelter for a holiday party. I was playing a rather morose song on the guitar when a bold teenager (what teen is not) said, “man, this is a homeless shelter, we definitely don’t want to hear the blues.”

I had let my head get filled with sympathy and was convinced that somehow me sharing their sorrow (or feeling sorry for them) was helping them. It was also probably my way of apologizing to them for my having and them not having.

It ultimately comes from a scarcity mindset (what some call zero-sum). If I have, others do not have. There is only so much to go around. The “have-nots” will never get ahold of the wealth of the “haves” because there is not enough to go around.

 

Clearly the homeless teenager knew better than I did. What he was really saying is, “Man, I need a chance. I need resources. I need support. Help me on my way so that I can aspire to my best. I got a lot of life in me.” He didn’t need my sympathy.

And then I may not have had or known about the resources. But I could have (and should have) started a relationship. But I didn’t have time for that. I was too busy serving him. See the stupidity. So much of our charity is the same.

The beautiful news is that any of us can start a relationship. The bottom line of compassion is that. It moves us beyond mere emotion to action, to caring. We will be tempted to see the under-resourced as a problem to be solved.

Don’t! We are starting a relationship, not fixing a car. And human beings are complex creatures full of layers of intricacy. And yes, we are also creatures of habit with strong drives toward the addictive. It all beautifully blends into us.

And loving another human being does not come with instructions. We will feel in-equipped. We are IF the goal is fixing the person. If instead we are there for the person as encouragement, support, and reminders they are in charge, we are not.

We can all love. We can all hope. We can all dream. We can all help others do the same. We will be tempted to look for experts. And certainly at times we will need advice. But there are no experts at love. We are all novices in the field of grace.

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The Gift of Sadness (Part 1)

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The Gift of Sadness (Part 1)

Most people commonly assume happiness is better than sadness. “Why are you making me cry?” one my add after watching a sad movie or reading a sentimental card. They fight back sad emotions and the ensuring physical responses.

Why? Why do we innately fight off sadness? Did our primeval ancestors do the same? Is it a survival instinct? Do we instinctively know it is a dangerous path that can lead to despair? Do we avoid despair to the point of missing the gifts of sadness?

There is certainly danger in entertaining sadness. It is extremely powerful. It has the potent ability to disable or shut down our will. It can lock us in ourselves. Yet oddly, the lack of letting it access us will always lock us away. It seems we need it.

Perhaps there is another way to look at the quotient. Perhaps joy (the penultimate kind which is the apex of the human condition, even beyond emotions) is sadness and happiness properly combined, where infinite and finite meet.

Perhaps our human emotions are not quite capable of interpreting the “data” of true joy. Perhaps the word transcendent or transcendence was created to explain things that uniquely combine or simply ascend beyond typical human emotions.

And perhaps emotions are not really separate from our minds and our ability to interpret what is happening? In joy, we experience something of a light-headedness. Our head spins. We are literally pulled up in a trancelike state of awe and wonder.

Think of a beautiful sunset view, the perfect song at just the right time, the overwhelming feeling of oneness at the end of a great movie. We are left only with what the great writers and poets have called joy, the perfect human emotion.

Joy is the place where infinite sadness and perfect hope meet. It is the place where we have accepted the hard realities of life without giving over to despair; where we have forged our way through courage into a new reality we know not yet.

Sadness is rather a sane, rational emotion in a broken world. No matter one’s philosophy, to believe the world is working perfectly is simply ignoring so many heartbreaking, gut-wrenching realities. Things are broken.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t some beautiful things about life. It doesn’t mean gratitude is not sane (may be a required attitude for survival). But it does mean that some people lead a rather bleak, destitute life void of comforts, care, or relief.

Now it is true that every human has a fundamental freedom to choose their attitude. But some have had that freedom brutally deformed. Some have been abused from early on. Some have been birthed for money only. Some are left for naught.

Humans acclimate to their surroundings. Yes. One born in the bush does not long for air-conditioning he has never experienced. Yet still there are injustices in the world and those who suffer more directly their consequences than others.

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From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 6)

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From Inspiration to Inspired Work: The Journey to Launching (Part 6)

Everyone “makes” a living somehow. Very few people do something meaningful and directly connected to their passion. Most get something remotely in their “field” but generally they are filling a position that could be replaced by another.

The point is that work is always to some degree work. No matter how closely related to our passion or interest we will inevitably begrudge some aspects of what is needed. We can either do the undesirable things toward our ends or another’s.

The call to launching a career in the arts is an entrepreneurial one by nature. It will be hard. There will be much competition. The in-roads will be rocky, not smoothly paved. It will be hard. But what are the alternatives that seem any better?

We will otherwise give the prime hours of our days to another’s vision. We will have to work hard. We will have to do things that are not meaningful. We may be able to “leave it work.” That is true. But is that the goal? Is our goal detachment from work?

From the very beginning of time surviving on earth has not been easy. We can only imagine the struggles of our pre-historic parents, trying merely to survive in the brutal landscape. It may seem odd to mention but reminds us of our context.

We really don’t have it that bad. And our choice between doing a job we like but don’t love where pay is steady or doing a job we love where pay is uncertain and unstable is really quite an amazing choice. Honestly, it is an American choice.

In many countries still today that choice is not real. The choice is decided for them either by their family, environment, or even times their government. There are few choices offered where we are given complete freedom to decide.

Having a choice at all is a reminder of our great privilege. We live in such a time as to have real freedom. Of course that freedom has great challenges but certainly it outweighs the alternatives. We get to realize our lives by simply willing it.

So we move forward with the sovereign freedom to make our lives exactly what we think they should be. We listen well to our gifts and to our true friends to discover what has already been put in there before we were even born or thought of.

We don’t hesitate or apologize for these gifts. They are ours not by some choice or some willing of our own. That is why they are natural gifts. The gifts are given for the common good beyond that which we can completely comprehend.

One thing we know: if we do not use these gifts they will atrophy upon themselves within us. They are given to be used. They are to be shared. When we do not use them it is as if the whole world is missing them within us.

The world will move on. Our stubborn refusal to use them will not keep the Great One from doing what He will. Another will rise to the challenge. So take care of your gifts. They are treasures to be fought for, wrestled with, and celebrated with the world.

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