"Flowers and the Thorns"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
I was a college professor for many years of my career- teaching courses in Interpersonal Communication. Every semester I would spend a class discussing the first few sentences of the "then-popular" book, The Road Less Traveled, by the Psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck:
Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.
It is a great truth because once we really see the truth we transcend it.
Once we know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it -
then life is no longer difficult.
Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
I always had to "brace myself" when I would teach that class on the difficulty of life. I usually wouldn't get through the first few words of this quote before unleashing an uproar among my students.
Some would get angry, others distraught, most would reject the claim that the difficulty of life is a great truth: "What do you mean, life is difficult? It's not supposed to be that way, that's why we are here in school studying, so we can get a degree and go out into the world, get good jobs, have a family, cute babies, a nice house and a snazzy car, go on vacations -happily ever after."
And yet, I knew that, while these students may not have yet come to realize it, that great truth about the essential difficulty of life would eventually set in, no matter how hard they might work, how much money they might make, whatever their social status might be.
No one of us is immune from the messiness of our imperfect lives as human beings. At one time or other, everyone silently weeps over their failures, each of us gets a taste of bitter disappointment. The everyday routine of going to work and raising a family is tedious, complicated, demanding and often quite boring. No one's life ever proceeds exactly according to how they may have planned it.
Life is difficult - this is a great truth.
But I think it's also true that once you accept the difficulty of life, you do indeed transcend it because while difficult, our lives as human beings are also stunningly beautiful. We are such fragile creatures, so easily hurt and yet at the same time so resilient. Even in the midst of the pain, confusion and disappointments we are able to reach out in hope, find healing, offer and accept forgiveness and act with kindness and compassion.
Yesterday, we were having lunch in a busy restaurant in the heart of our nation's capitol (we are away from our desert home traveling for the week). I looked out the window and saw the masses of humanity busily passing by- men and women in tailored business suits, moms with babies in strollers, homeless people asking for spare change, kids on skateboards, an old man in a wheelchair, rich and poor, smiling and frowning, some walking with fast determination and others with aimless abandon. And I had this sudden flash of empathy with it all - each and every one of us all thrown together into this glorious mess we call "life" - such a beautiful struggle.
I am reminded of a line from one of my all-time favorite songs by the poet-musician, K.D. Laing:
Love is simple
I worship this tenacity
And the beautiful struggle we're in
Love will not elude us
I guess this is the reason why I can accept the truth of the "difficulty of life" and transcend it - because love is tenacious. We are always being held in the grip of a "Love" that will never elude us, never let us go. Love is a Universal energy that flow in everything that is; and so come what may, Love abides
"God" is "Love." I worship this tenacity!