Freedom is a tricky subject
No one enjoys suffering and it is instinctive and yes good and healthy to find ways to lessen it. Escaping pain and suffering is simply not possible, at least in this world. There are many strategies that are tried to escape a certain species of suffering, for each human being is unique in what he or she has to deal with in life. The frustrating aspect of our lives is that the many attempts to find a way around it, will only make life more stressful and problem filled in the long run. The more common addictions, the big ones, are often focused on as ways of dealing with life that only deepen ones suffering. Yet any buffer that is used can do the same harm, even if the so called addiction is common, everyday and underplayed. In lent many seek to try to limit the power such addictions, often considered benign by many but harmful none the less.
Freedom is a tricky subject. There are times when I feel strong and can deal with just about anything, though it is based more on a cycle of ups and downs that most of us go through. Then the times of weakness and struggle come about and the illusion of control is once again shattered. It is a merry-go-round of willfulness and then the failure of will power. The weaknesses are many and differ with each person. For some it is food, for others sex, drugs of all sorts or alcohol. It could be work; being driven to succeed at all cost for when failure is experienced, the inner chaos and despair is hard to deal with. It is like a deep knot within the soul that can’t be untied or even cut through. It is a permanent struggle. Yet there is a deeper process that seems to lessen this painful knot as we age, mature and grow. Growth is the key word I would say.
Openness to life, to its open ended-ness, comes about from long experience from learning about the cycles of life. The sunshine comes out, but then so do the dark clouds that bring inner storms. Personal moral failures, the common but deeply painful tragedies and problems of life, force us to make choices and to hopefully live by them. The integration of our longings for wholeness and that aspect of self that seeks escape from reality even if it is self destructive, takes time, decades for most. For me, I am still in the middle of it all, yet there is inner movement. It is as if this growth happens because I am simply open and trying, that whatever causes this deep healing is something over and beyond my own struggles. In the end, it depends on conscious choices to trust in life’s goodness and meaning. We can experience failure as falling forwards or backwards… the death to the normal way of doing things is a slow and painful one and the path often opaque if not hidden altogether.
Many think faith is based on some kind of fairy tale. Though they often forget, those who use this argument, that fairy tales do deal with life and they are far from pleasant. They are filled with good and evil, suffering, injustice and point to the difficult journey that leads to a place where our deepest longings reside and are often so painful that we don’t want to think about them. In reality none of us can escape from the demands of life. One way or another we have to at least have the desire to move forward, or to fall back into ever deeper chaos, pain and despair. The pain that mankind experiences, as well as the pain that I experience, is a wake up call I believe to begin anew, to deal with what causes us unease. I also believe that actual success, while important, is not the main goal, but to simply remain open and trusting.
Our deepest and most urgent longings are signs that beckon us forward. We seek union with something larger. We will often project that longing onto those we love, making others into some kind of god that will lift us out of our own inner aloneness and fragmentation. Perhaps that is one reason love is so painful. For love often makes us more aware of how deep our hearts are and how our love of others, no matter how profound and fulfilling, still leaves a deeper wound of longing for more. Love of others will also expand the heart, for in spite of that, the failures, we still seek to love more. Love and suffering seem to be inseparable here; well that is true after the infatuation falls away.
We seek more life, yet also something different, new, free and liberating. Our music, our movies, literature, religions and philosophies deal with this inner ‘itch’. We will each come up with our own ideas about what this is. Each faith and philosophy will seek to help people to find a way ‘home’. Conceivably for all of us, there is homesickness for something more, deeper and permanent. Some think that this is an illusion and to believe that there is something more is a form of escape from reality and a waste of time. Others think that it is faith that gives us the courage to face life with all of its rigors and to be open to the Infinite, the loving presence that journeys with us all the days of our lives and beyond. I choose faith, because the other choice makes no sense to me, for I see the Infinite all around me and especially in the wonder and depth of those I meet in my life and have come to love and respect deeply.