In the September issue of Day by Day, Alice Camille reflects on the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes3:1-11. (For everything there is a season.) She writes, “…the notion that life is a pendulum, ceaselessly rocking, is there. Life can go either way—and in fact will go both ways, before it’s over. Each of us will be happy and sad, strong and sick, winners and losers, before we’re through. We’ll celebrate and endure; know grand days and terrifying ones. We’ll be glad to be alive. And wish we hadn’t been born.”
I was moving along in total agreement with Camille until that last line. It stopped me with a thud. I did a quick overview of my life. No, not even once have I ever regretted being born. My response has been the opposite: continual amazement for being alive on this magnificent planet. Even though I have known low times, aching grief, troubling relationships, needling regrets, and despondent episodes regarding political and ecclesial duplicity, I have continually been glad to have been born.
While life is absolutely precious to me, I also understand why some find this journey of existence too much and wish they had not been part of it. If I experienced a life of tragedy after tragedy, horrific abuse, unyielding physical pain, incessant mental and emotional anguish, being stuck in dire poverty no matter how hard I worked, or moving in and out of the kind of depression Parker Palmer describes as “you’re not IN darkness, you BECOME darkness,” I might have a quite different response to that last line of Alice Camille’s.
I want to avoid being condescending, arrogant or easily satisfied by my own experience and attitude toward being birthed. Besides being grateful for being born, this reality instills in me a keener sense of compassion for those who suffer, and a fuller resolve to do what I can to ease the burdens of those for whom life holds little optimism.
A part of me usually manages to hold on to possibility, to the hope of what might evolve from that which currently appears unacceptable. Poet and mystic, René Daumal, wisely noted, “The path to our heart’s desire often lies through the undesirable.” Where I live, planet Earth is turning us slowly toward winter’s dark, fallow period. The trees and vegetation are once again teaching me about the endless cycle of regeneration, how I need low times, gray days and muted activity—so unlike the high-spirited movement of summer. The autumn and winter seasons remind me to be patient about what I long for, to trust that some sort of growth or new life follows hard times and seemingly hope-less situations.
Life is full of tumbling, stretching, falling down and getting up. When I ponder deteriorating leaves, harvested fields left with nothing, and migrating birds whose songs will be absent for months, I recognize how I, too, must give myself over to trust, to let go and allow a time of restoration. Spring will follow—exactly when, I am not sure—but I trust in its arrival.
Yes, I am extremely grateful that I have been born. What about you?
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