“The question is not whether you have experienced loss, but rather how you live your losses. Are you hiding them? Are you pretending they aren’t real? Are you refusing to share them with your fellow travelers? Are you trying to convince yourself that your losses are little compared with your gains? Are you blaming someone for what you have suffered and lost?
“There is another option—the possibility of mourning. Yes, you can mourn your losses. You cannot talk or act them away, but you can shed tears over them and allow yourself to grieve deeply. You can never get to the joy if you dare not cry, if you do not have the courage to weep, if you don’t take the opportunity to experience the pain. The world says, ‘Just ignore it, be strong, don’t cry, get over it, move on.’ But if you don’t mourn you can become bitter. All your grief can go right into your deepest self and sit there for the rest of your life.
“Better to mourn your losses than to deny them. Dare to feel your losses. Dare to grieve them. Name the pain and say, ‘Yes, I feel real pain, real fear, real loss; and I am going to embrace it. I will take up the cross of my life, and accept it.’ To grieve is to experience the pain of your life and face the dark “abyss where nothing is clear or settled, where everything is shifting and changing. To fully grieve is to allow your losses to tear apart feelings of false security and safety and lead you to the painful truth of your brokenness and dependence upon God alone. Finally, you come to the point where you honestly can say: ‘Yes, yes, yes! This is my life, and I accept it.'”
Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, 42.
“While there is a waxing and then a waning in action and efficiency, growth can be continual at the level of the heart, of wisdom and of communion with God and with people. There are some precise stages in the growth of the heart. Tiny children live by love and presence — the time of childhood is a time of trust. Adolescents live by generosity, utopian ideals and hope. Adults become realistic, commit themselves and assume responsibilities; this is the time of fidelity. Finally, old people refind the time of confidence which is also wisdom. They cannot be very active, so they have time to observe, to contemplate and to forgive. They have a whole sense of the meaning of human life, of acceptance and of realism. They know that living has not just to do with action and running; they know that it is also to do with welcome and loving. They have somehow got past the stage of proving themselves through efficiency.”
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, 104-05.
By now I should be entering on the supreme stage
Of the whole walk, reserved for the late afternoon.
The heat was to be over now; the anxious mountains,
The airless valleys and the sun-baked rocks, behind me.
Now, or soon now, if all is well, come the majestic
Rivers of foamless charity that glide beneath
Forests of contemplation. In the grassy clearings
Humility with liquid eyes and damp, cool nose
Should come, half-tame, to eat bread from my hermit hand.
If storms arose, then in my tower of fortitude–
It ought to have been in sight by this–I would take refuge;
But I expected rather a pale mackerel sky,
Feather-like, perhaps shaking from a lower cloud
Light drops of silver temperance, and clovery earth
Sending up mists of chastity, a country smell,
Till earnest stars blaze out in the established sky
Rigid with justice; the streams audible; my rest secure.
I can see nothing like all this. Was the map wrong?
Maps can be wrong. But the experienced walker knows
That the other explanation is more often true.
Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, 63-64.
“Let me display the inescapable need for a traditional framework first in one example of great modern endeavor, which may then serve as a paradigm for other intellectual and moral progress in a free, dynamic society. My example will be the pursuit of the natural sciences. This may be surprising, for modern science was founded through the violent rejection of authority. Throughout the formative centuries of modem science, the revolt against authority was its battle cry: it was sounded by Bacon and Descartes, and by the founders of the Royal Society in their device, Nullius in Verba, What these men said was true and important at the time, but once the adversaries they fought had been defeated, the repudiation of all authority or tradition by science became a misleading slogan.
“The popular conception of science teaches that science is a collection of observable facts, which any body can verify for himself. We have seen that this is not true in the case of expert knowledge, as in diagnosing a disease. But it is not true either in the physical sciences. In the first place, you cannot possibly get hold of the equipment for testing, for example, a statement of astronomy or of chemistry. And supposing you could somehow get the use of an observatory or a chemical laboratory, you would probably damage their instruments beyond repair before you ever made an observation. And even if you should succeed in carrying out an observation to check upon a statement of science and you found a result which contradicted it, you would rightly assume that you had made a mistake.
“The acceptance of scientific statements by lay men is based on authority, and this is true to nearly the same extent for scientists using results from branches of science other than their own. Scientists must rely heavily for their facts on the authority of fellow scientists.
“This authority is enforced in an even more personal manner in the control exercised by scientists over the channels through which contributions are submitted to all other scientists. Only offerings that are deemed sufficiently plausible are accepted for publication in scientific journals, and what is rejected will be ignored by science. Such decisions are based on fundamental convictions about the nature of things and about the method which is therefore likely to yield results of scientific merit. These beliefs and the art of scientific inquiry based on them are hardly codified: they are, in the main, tacitly implied in the traditional pursuit of scientific inquiry.”
Princes they hung by their hands, respect they stripped from the elders
Young men rattle the millstone, boys stagger under their loads
Wise elders have abandoned the gates, young men quit their songs
Our hearts have abandoned their joy, our bodies that danced now mourn
The crown has crashed from our head, woe to us, sinners
In all these things, our hearts retch, in all these things our eyes swim
Mount Zion is desolate, foxes forage, scavenge its hill
You, YHWH, are enthroned forever, from generation to generation
Why do you forget us forever? Why have you forsaken us so long?
Bring us back to you, so we return, and renew the days of old
Unless you have utterly rejected us, and are settled in your anger
Lord, remember what has happened to us; look at us; see our disgrace
Our possessions were given to strangers, our homes to squatters
We are fatherless, orphans, our mothers are widows
We pay for our water, and also our wood to heat and to eat
We are constantly exploited, we are weary without rest
We’ve pledged to Egypt and to Assyria, simply to eat our bread
Our fathers sinned and are dead, while we bear their iniquity
Slaves delight to rule us, we’ve no escape from their whip
We exchange our lives for our food, the sword sneaks in the wilderness
Our skins burn like fire, the fever of hunger
The women of Zion they raped, the virgins of the city of Judah
Outraged, they cry, “Turn aside! Unclean! Turn aside! Do not touch us!”
The roaches scatter incoherently; “they cannot stay,” it is said among the tribes
Personally, YHWH has shattered and scattered them away from his protective watch
The priests are not esteemed, the elders not revered
Ragged, weary eyes failed, vainly peering for unpromised help
From exposed towers we watched for a nation that would not save us
Steps marked by enemy hunters, poachers sighted us in deserted streets
Our lives had been spent, their days counted to the bitter end
Those who stalked us swooped deadly swift like the eagles of the heavens
Relentlessly pursuing us onto the mountains only to ambush us in the wilderness
Unexpectedly, our breath of life, YHWH’s anointed king, was caught in their snare
Of whom we had said, “We live in his shadow, his shelter from the nations”
Well up in triumph! Rejoice! Daughters of Edom, who dwell in the land of Uz, for now!
You too will drink from this cup; you will be drunk and exposed
Your iniquity is full and finished, Daughter Zion, the exile will not always endure
But YHWH will avenge your iniquity, daughter Edom; he will expose your sins