Grace . . . and suffering

Flowers growing

I’m actually sitting out in the morning sun writing my morning pages at my own little picnic table.  I can hear the cars on Highway 2 hurrying by–on the move, and behind me, a train whistle.  My wrist has a wrinkle in it from wearing a cuff all night to ward off carpel tunnel.  My fingers are still tingling and numb but able to hold the pen okay.  The coffee tastes good.  Life is moving at breakneck speed, and I don’t know how to slow it down but to just insist that there is time to sit in the sun and write these pages.  For me.  To me.

I want to take the time to sink back into me–the learner, the writer, the student, the explorer of all things human–and not just let the do lists do me in.  My creative energies have been all gathered up by this place.  It’s as if there is another room just three steps away.  It is a beautiful room, one I used to love spending time in, but I never simply open the door and walk into it.  In a way I have barricaded it with my own thoughts.  I have made both writing and teaching about something else (work, money, getting published) instead of about my beloved—what I love.

I don’t buy that it is gone.  I have just locked it all away.  Why create a beautiful retreat and then never retreat?

What I need to search out is the core of my own desire for learning.  As a teacher, I’m most alive when I’m deep in the study of something I feel passionate about.  I can scan the years behind me and see that this is true.  But as I age, I think my life is less fresh.  I walk old familiar paths because that is the path of least resistance.  My stories grow tired, but I feel like I don’t know in which direction to look for the new stories.  Part of the problem is a kind of deep tiredness that stems from disillusion.  I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to make the earth move.  I keep thinking about this movie where a bunch of kids—rejects at summer camp—go on a quest to free the buffalo that had been penned up.   (I think it was buffalo.)  It was an enormous and dangerous undertaking—it took everything they had—but the animals had become so domesticated that when the kids threw open the gate, the animals just stood there eating grass. They no longer even knew that they had been fenced in.  That is how I feel sometimes when I teach.  We no longer even remember that we should reach and dream and push against restraint.

I feel the pain of those little boys when they threw open the gate and nothing happened.  And it is that feeling that has me questioning what I do.

Having said all that, I’m realizing how many life experiences I’ve had that came from a book.  People don’t just change because someone tells them to change.  They shift direction when something hits them deeply and emotionally in the very core of who they are.  They change with great suffering.  I think so many books that I’ve read alone and in private that touched me to the core.  And the core is so simple.  We love.  Family, loss, need, suffering.  We do suffer.  There is no doubt.

To talk only of dreams and vision and reach is to tell only one side of the story because, in the end, we all suffer.  It may be only on this level that we all connect and become one.  Deep within our yearning—for life, for those we love—is suffering.  And beauty is made all the more beautiful when we suffer.

I don’t think I’ve ever reached this place before.  Maybe this had been my denial—that we can find a place or create a world where there is no suffering.  Peace equals no suffering–yet life is filled to the brim with suffering.  That is why constellation work is so powerful—it reaches deeply in and touches that place where we suffer.

And beneath our suffering is usually (always?) love.  It is probably wrong to equate pain with suffering.  One is of the body—the other of the soul.  It is our nature to love—thus to suffer when love is lost.

I think my morning pages have led me to discovery this morning.

Note:  I entered my morning pages as they were written, but after writing them I felt sort of raw and awake.  I realized that we cannot end suffering unless we end love—and that would be unthinkable.  I also realized that some of my constant urging of others to reach and dream has been as a way to avoid suffering.  I found this profoundly confusing.  I went back into the house—Milt was off doing an interview—and I sat alone and threw an I-Ching.  I don’t know if any of you have found the solace of this amazing little and ancient book, but this morning it reached me once again.  I threw three coins counting the heads and tails six times.  The hexagram I threw was “Grace.”  Here are the words that offered me wisdom and understanding.

Inside, the strength of simplicity and self-knowledge.

Outside, the beauty of acceptance and gentleness.

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Grace . . . and suffering — 8 Comments

  1. Last night you read this to me, and it felt sad. This morning when I read it, I could see how it is the beginning of a discussion. Thanks for putting it out there. I hope others like it too.

    x0x0x – woof.

  2. I love your blog writing, Jamie, but it is honest. It does not always end neatly but hangs with unspoken words and unanswered questions. As I read, I was reminded of a couple of lines from Desiderata:
    “You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

  3. Hi Leanne,

    Thanks for your thoughtful words. Life does kind of leave us with lots of questions and thoughts, doesn’t it. I remember Desiderata–what beautiful words. It is rare that I share thoughts this close to the bone, but honesty is a good thing.

  4. I absolutely love this, Jamie. The buffalo metaphor is amazing. It is so true. We have freedom, but often don’t know what to do with it because it is too risky to venture into our dreams. I’m saving this post. Thanks for sharing. ~ Peggy

  5. Jamie, your writing is profound. I reacted to the buffalo much like Peggy. It reminds me of how I see education today and how our children are forgetting how to wonder and explore. We feed them so they are comfortable and do not suffer. We teach them to pass the tests. This weighs heavy with me. I do not understand why there is not an outcry from teachers and parents.
    I really understand the the feelings of needing to be learning and not just playing an old record. I am finding that when I can take the time to answer my needs, it brings me to an incredible experience of connecting with other. Like you said, why build a retreat and never retreat your self. I have enjoyed getting to know you and Milt and I feel like you offer me the freshness that I yearn for. Thank you for being a friend.

    • Thanks Maggie,

      I found the name of that movie–Bless the Beasts and the Children. I even love the title. Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about this further–soon.

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