(This morning, two cards fell out of my deck as I shuffled it — Bindweed and the Sun. They strike me as diametric opposites, as two ways to experience the world. The offer a clear choice of how to live our lives.)
“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
– Roger Ebert, cancer survivor
Every day, we get to choose, whether to go to the Dark Place or not.
I’m not talking about clinical depression.
I am talking about how we choose where to put our attention.
We can make a list of pros and cons about a relationship, a project, a health issue, a financial situation — and focus on everything that is negative about it and hang our heads in despair, or even take an action we might later regret. Or we can focus on everything that’s going right, and everything we value. We can practice gratitude. We can focus on the positive. Love engenders more love.
Is this being a Pollyanna? Because I choose to laugh, to smile, to be grateful for what is good in my life? To seek joy, wherever I can? I am not denying the dark — the melancholy, the grief, the heartache, the illnesses, the disappointments. They are all there. They always will be.
Walking the path of darkness has its own deep wisdom.
And yet, I choose to use my life’s blood, and my “wild and precious” time, to help make what is good, grow, rather than fighting the darkness.
It’s not nearly as dramatic or exciting as going to war against the bad guys in a blockbuster movie, but it has its own charms.
Years ago, I remember Vicki Noble talking about her cancer healing circles, in which some women were spontaneously healed. She taught her students to focus on multiplying the healthy cells in the body, rather than trying to vanquish the cancerous cells.
Somehow, over the years, that’s become the way I live my life. I focus on growing what is joyous, and beautiful, and precious.
To seek joy, in the face of suffering, takes courage.
As I gaze at these two cards side by side, Bindweed and the Sun, I realize that I often have a tendency to either/or thinking. A situation is all good, or it’s all bad.
And that is not really the truth, is it? Real experience is more like the yin/yang symbol, where light and dark enter into each other’s territory.
Not either/or, but both/and, complementing each other and dancing with each other.
And still, like Roger Ebert (who survived one the most difficult challenges anyone could ever suffer), I choose to focus on finding joy, making joy, spreading joy.