So often the difficult times in our lives are much like a jungle, the amazon jungle for instance. We are smack bang in the middle of all that vegetation, all those things that distract us from looking at our pain, our regrets, the things that haunt us. We bury these things and get lost in the vegetation of the forest. We allow little insects (the small irritants of a Western civilized, capitalist society) to annoy us, to get under our skin, to cause us to curse at the heavens for allowing such a thing as humanity to exist.
But then we may at times be offered a machete. A chance in any small way to cut a path through the forest; to mow down the branches and wide leaves that block our path. And where does our path lead you may ask? I think our path always should lead to the top of the nearest, highest hill. In life this could be anything: a song that causes us to face our feelings, a good gym workout that enriches our body and mind, a spiritual meditation or prayer, or even something cultural like a moving theater production, work of art, film, or the company of a friend that understands. These small transcendent moments are those hills surrounding our forest. These moments make up in height what they lack in length. What do I mean by that?I mean that they are brief but immensely rewarding.
Once you have cut your way through the forest of your pain, felt everything you needed to feel, cursed at everything you needed to curse at, and sumitted your hill, you are able to look back at your struggle, look back at your past pain and fading demons and see them for what they really were. In the midst of pain and strife it’s hard to see clearly, hard to hold our heads true and stick to simple goals. But it is those very same simple goals, simple passions, simple connections that are our weapons to cut our way through to the summit of our hill.
So what does it take to do this? It can be summed up in one word: courage. But this is not the courage of superheroes whose powers put them at an advantage when facing danger. No, this is a courage whose strength lies in its vulnerability, in its ability to break down for any reason and hurt till there is no more hurt left. This is a courage that empties the hurt tank,that expels the demons instead of suppressing them. When Joan of Ark was arrested by the English and interrogated so that the English could convict her for blasphemy, she was no doubt scared beyond words. But what made her face the pyre bravely? What made her stay true to herself and to her beliefs? It was courage. A human courage that sees the quality of life not in its length but in those moments that are transcendent and universal. Joan believed that her suffering had meaning and it is quite interesting to note that in another country centuries ago a wise man named Siddhārtha Gautama had preached that human life is suffering.
So we face that suffering with a vulnerable courage that is creative, that channels pain into meaning, that forms the bliss in the void, that seeks, that reflects and that lives authentically. Finally, we must remember that courage is not the absence of fear but the realization that there is something more meaningful, more worthwhile and more rewarding than fear.