Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Light, Darkness, Hope and Despair

She sat in the chair with her knees to her chest and her feet on the seat. She was so thin it seemed possible to fold her up and put her in an envelope. Her struggle with anxiety had gone on for decades and she craved medication more than food. Multiple investigations in the hospital revealed no specific pathology but she was too ill to function on her own.

He sat on the ground, his deformed, paralyzed legs folded beneath him. Spina bifida had left him this way from birth. He moved around in the dirt, pushing and lifting his body with his strong arms. He had no wheelchair or mobility aid. I watched as he sat in the shade in the courtyard of his home, singing and playing his guitar to no one in particular. Contented and part of a family and community in a poor Mexican fishing village, he had no complaints. 

All creatures are designed to survive in the best of times and the worst of times. It is normal to store fat in times of plenty to sustain life in times of famine. Animals, birds and other creatures are in a constant struggle with the elements and predators. Humans have always dealt with uncertainty. Natural disasters, wars, economic crashes, plagues and other illnesses have been present throughout recorded history. The human spirit is resilient and heroic human behaviour is usually born in adversity. Challenge and struggle is necessary to attain our full potential and strength;- emotionally, spiritually and physically. 

Canada is a country free of war and famine, a country with free medical care and social assistance. We have a democratic government and a fair judicial system. We have a better standard of living than the majority of people in the world, past and present. Most people I know are generally happy but there is an undercurrent of cynicism, criticism and dissatisfaction in our affluent society that is pervasive and destructive. Too many people struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, lifestyle related illness, autoimmune diseases and a lack of purpose and hope. It is as if we expect life to be perfect making it difficult to cope with adversity in a healthy way. 

I watched a discussion recently where Bono and Eugene Peterson discuss the Psalms. In it, Bono says: “I would love if this conversation would inspire people who are writing these beautiful voices and writing these beautiful gospel songs — write a song about their bad marriage, write a song about how they’re pissed off at the government, because that’s what God wants from you. That truth — ‘the way, the truth’ — and that truthfulness — know the truth, ‘the truth will set you free’ — will blow things apart.”

Praise is meaningless if we have never experienced pain. We cannot appreciate light without experiencing darkness. It is important to face trouble with honesty and hope, not blame and cynicism. We need to make sure our children learn early that life is not always easy, maturity develops though adversity, and that perseverance is essential. Happiness and fulfillment comes from an attitude of gratitude, cultivating meaningful relationships, proper care of the body and soul, having achievable goals, and developing the ability to handle stress. 

Steve Bell is one of my favourite musicians (as well as being a Canadian) and I find his lyrics very meaningful and honest. Here is part of his adaptation of Psalm 90.

Psalm 90- Steve Bell 

Satisfy us in the morning with Your love
That we may sing for joy
And be glad in all our days
Satisfy us in the morning with Your love

Match the days Lord of our sorrow with Your joy
May Your deeds be always known
To the ones you call your own
Match the days Lord of our sorrow with Your joy

May the favour of the Lord
Rest upon us and our land
And establish for us all
The work of our hands

Yes the work of our hands


  1. "Praise is meaningless without pain. We cannot appreciate light without experiencing darkness."
    Amen to that, and to living authentic lives of gratitude for it all.

  2. People are finding good ways to deal with the theme that I am avoiding. :)

  3. I agree with you that blame and cynicism block our ability to live fully. I think self-deception is another one. I'm just reading the book "The Hidden Brain," and it's fascinating so far. So much that goes on under the radar of our conscious mind.

  4. Many have a right to complain. But there is no answer in complaining. Life lived to the fullest happens as we make the best of what we have. Your example of the man singing with Spina bifida was good.


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