I remember clutching to my Curious George doll when I was five years old, tears falling in a cloud of confusion. One hand holding on to my dad’s shirt and wondering why my sister and I were being taken away. That night, I was in so much pain. I still wonder how in one moment, how one person can experience so much loss? Are we destined to feel pain, to lose, to get diseases and die? Is this our fate? These are very loaded questions. Below is merely an opinion in response to those questions…
Pain forces us to look outside of ourselves. Sometimes in the middle of searching for the thing outside of us, we sometimes the thing that lies outside of us isn’t some ideal heaven waiting for us, but that heaven lies in the person next to us. Heaven is the realization that we don’t have to go through this alone. that no matter how hard, painful, diseased life gets that we are part of something even bigger than death — humanity.
Because hollywood is good at finding ways to distort our desire, or because our Sunday School teachers have been trained to believe in non-existent idealism, we have come to believe the lie that perfection lies somewhere over the rainbow. That Oz is waiting for us to find it. Don’t get me wrong, I am open to the possibility that Heaven does exist, but I think its a lot different than we think.
I think its here, now.
When we choose to be there for one another, that is heaven.
Some look at the early parts of Genesis as a narrative about sin and why we experience this groaning within, but I think that that explanation might fall short not only of its context, but also castrate the power of realizing that pain, disease, death are part of our divinity. That to be divine is to experience and embrace what we have come to call our depravity or fallibility.
That to experience pain, pleasure, sadness, grief, loss, disease is a part of the experience of what it means to be humanly divine.
This doesn’t mean we don’t try to journey on and make sense of why we experience what we experience. To me, that is an essential part of the journey, but to reduce our life experiences down to the cause of sin almost cheapens life down to a process where we fix something we aren’t capable of fixing.
Death, disease, pain and loss are inevitable as sun in the summer. But, they aren’t the enemy.
The Hebrew word for pain is ahahh, pronounced a-haw. It means ‘Oh’ with an exclamation. Its like the ‘Oh’ not again. Or ‘Oh’ I can’t believe this happened. Its an exclamation and epiphany of powerlessness over that situation. Not a bad place to be. It’s a good place to be. Why? Because it reminds us that there is something bigger than now that is happening. That we aren’t the center of the story. That there is more to our own importance at stake. To experience ‘Oh’ is to experience liberation out of our need to be in control.
Notice that the Hebrew word for pain isn’t a way to fix the pain. It embraces the pain as part of the reality, yet it still honestly responds to it. Sometimes we have this idea that to be self-less means to never mention our struggles, but what if our silence is impeding others in their opportunity to be there for you? Your grief is their growth. Your growth is their grief.
The theology of sin is one theology that is attempting to reduce and irreducible thing. It relinquishes us from the search, it bans us from our existentialism into a false sense of peace and acceptance.
Sometimes, to understand is to truly know nothing.
In terms of our pain and agony, I think it is better not to know, and I don’t mean not to know the reasons or seek ways to find healing (in and out) but to know the pen-ultimate reason, I think it would cheapen our experience. I think it would force us to forget that we need one another. It would be a sort of amnesia.
This struggle of knowing and not knowing shows up in the movie ‘I Heart Huckabees’ with Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin and Mark Wahlberg. The movie follows different people who are looking for reasons to their existence. Some even hire existential detectives to follow them around and discover their purpose for being alive. At the end of the movie, there is no conventional answer given, but we’re only left with the nihilist hitting himself.
The nihilist who believes that we exist for nothing is still finding purpose in hitting himself.
This is the conundrum, in the middle of saying there isn’t an answer, the nihilist ignorantly participates in an answer. The perverse gesture of attempting to find an answer to why we go through what we go through will impede us from the growth that is inherent in not knowing why we go through what we go through. However, my offering which is but one offering, isn’t an answer in the conventional sense, this isn’t ‘gospel’, this is merely an attempt to understand and find merit in our ontological angst. I don’t propose this with the intention of givinng an answer, but rather offering a personal perspective, to me,
one of the many reasons why we experience pain is to remind us we need each other and that we are not alone.
What this does anticipate is that we begin looking to the person next to us, not merely looking at them, but willingly and creatively participate in their existence, and this also presupposes the opposite should be true.
That we don’t necessarily need to offer answers, but by being present in each other’s world we are claiming that we don’t understand with them, but that being together in our unknowing is a lot more healing than going through it alone. That the most healing thing we can participate in is a naive embrace of the fallibility of humanity as a good thing, rather than a bad thing. That when we fully embrace our lives with all the scars, pimples and spots we save them from being scars, pimples and spots and re-interpret them as rainbows, skies and oceans. Things that brings us into new horizons and into a new kind of inter-connected hope that leads us into a new kind of fallible divine humanity…