“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
― Pema Chödrön
Joy gives way to grief which gives way to joy. Even in the hardest life the two seem to balance each other out. That’s not to say that all of our lives are equally hard. I have met very few people living in the roughest situations who didn’t find things to be joyful about. I have also met many living lives of relative ease who find ways of being miserable from time to time. There seems to be a strange balance of relativity there. Tho if we can see them both, our joys and misery as experience and the ability to experience life as joy, what then? Perhaps neither joy nor sorrow (or to use Pema Chödrön’s word wretchedness) need be fixed locations on our map. Perhaps in accepting them as equal spurs on our journey, we can reach new heights of understanding and compassion.
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