The Uncelebrated Valor of Common People.
I have been wrestling for some time now with finding meaning. A feeling akin to having a hole in your chest that nothing can permanently fill. As much as you search and stuff, that gnawing soul emptiness only ebbs and flows.
I am not referring to the soul found in the painters palate of theology, but rather, to the malleable spirit of life, that sense of energy we live by on a daily basis. Our inner-spirit as an experience, rather than as a thing. It is that naive and woundable innocence with which we have the potential for deplorable depravity or glorious heights.
“To understand soul we cannot turn to science for a description. Its meaning is best given by its context . . . words long associated with the soul amplify it further: mind, spirit, heart, life, warmth, humanness, personality, individuality, intentionality, essence, innermost purpose, emotion, quality, virtue, morality, sin, wisdom, death, God. A soul is said to be ‘troubled,’ ‘old,’ ‘disembodied,’ ‘immortal,’ ‘lost.’” -David Whyte- (1)
There is a resonant chord that rings when we hear of our soul feeling: confused, broken, passionate, or at peace. Our spirit can be ground to powder by life, or it can be made alive and vibrant. And therein is where I find my wonder. My dreams and idealisms, my mailability and trust, all lain upon the auction block of daily drudgery. More burlap than I care for, and far too few gold or silver linings.
So, again and again, I take up the defibrillator paddles and place them on my heart. Bam, I get a jolt to my soul from a movie. Bam, another jolt from a pizza. “CLEAR”, another defibrillation from sexuality. I want to feel alive. I want to “be” alive. What other things can I hit my soul with? Money, cars, shopping, games, religion, important social roles, drugs, fame, travel, piety… the list is endless. But each shock only provides moments of life.
But what if the real problem is our expectation that everything is supposed to go right? Honestly, can anyone really feel alive all the time? What would that even mean anyway? Would it mean to have an important place of purpose on a grand scale is the only way you have meaning? Or perhaps to have unlimited money so that bills and responsibility are no longer relevant? Would that give life meaning? For me it would likely be a lifetime of living at the beach. Unfortunately, I am quite sure we would all prefer saving the world, rather than going to work and paying bills, coping with aging parents, or raising kids on a single income.
Slowly, the unwanted, dull awareness came to me:
“Emptiness is intentional”.
“Failure is part of progress”.
“Life is meant to be a journey, not just a destination”.
Up is supposed to be up and down is supposed to be down.
For, if we flee the grey and turbulent mists of uncertainty, we hinder our development. The path of least resistance will only lead us to a lack of strength of soul, smallish, petty.
“You do a disservice to yourself when you treat your feelings of despair and emptiness as deviations from the normal and healthy life you idealize. The dark times, too, like enlightenments and achievements, leave their mark and make you a person of insight and compassion.” -Thomas Moore- (2)
You can see this principle lived out in the lives of grandparents: there are those who children run to and there are those children run from. The difference is not that one had an easier life than the other, but rather, the perspective of how they chose to respond to their lot in life.
This is true meaning in our journey through our destiny. It is the quiet miracle of maintaining a soul that is malleable and thriving despite a lifetime of disappointments. It is the uncelebrated valor of common people. To have the audacity to keep their hand in the fire as it burns and still continue to thrive; and therein we find the deepest form of life, that part of life called, Wisdom.
1. The Heart Aroused, David Whyte
2. Dark Nights of the Soul, pg,18, Thomas Moore