Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In Other Words: “Sorrow is the Child of Too Much Joy.”

Inside Out. Pixar. 
By Chuck Keller

Perhaps you have seen the animated movie Inside Out, a wonderful story about personified emotions where sadness saves the day.  You see, sorrow helps us feel compassion, to be human, to have perspective. Joy makes us giddy; sorrow makes us somber. And reflection makes us wiser. It reminded me of the Chinese proverb, “Sorrow is the child of too much joy.”

In order to understand where we are going we have to stop every now and then and look back, see where we have been. Reflection adds a needed perspective. But as I review this year I am struck by how many wonderful people have died or who have come close to death. Too many - young, old, family, and friends - to name.

Sorrow is, though, a necessary part of being human. And as much as we want to either prevent sorrow or protect someone from it, we cannot and probably should not.  We are happiest when we share and it’s sad when we can no longer share something with someone.  But that sorrow means that we have experienced joy with another.  Joy and sorrow - the yin and yang. Can’t have one without the other. It’s the balance that we need, however unpleasant one part is.

All of us  have been told that sorrow diminishes with time, but I don’t entirely believe that. A scratch of an old memory makes it as real as today, but I have learned how to handle these losses and even find meaning in that sorrow. And in an odd way, there is some comfort in that.

Sorrow means that I have experienced joy, delight, elation, triumph, and even jubilation with another and that I miss it.  And as freeing as that initial joy is, sorrow is equally confining. We can only tolerate being emotionally isolated for so long. We must express sorrow for the loss of what we cherished. There is a Swedish proverb that shared joy is doubled joy and shared sorrow is halved sorrow that describes the situation beautifully. And that is what I want to remember about these losses.

Perhaps that’s why I like listening to the blues. It is full of sadness, cheating, loss, death, frustration, suffering, desire, and unfulfilled dreams. Every human foible is a topic. But here’s the tricky and conflicting part, it makes me feel good.

I relate to the stories, how they are told, and the ultimate liberation of recognition and release. That down and dirty commiseration frees the sorrow to fly away - even knowing that it will land again one day. But it’s great stuff. Ultimately, it’s freeing. Really.

So this humorless piece of reflection is for those we lost due to accident, suicide, disease, addiction, war, or murder.  As much as I grieve for them, their families, and friends I still want to thank all of them for the smiles, delight, support, guidance, wit, charm, creativity, dedication, example, warmth, challenges, vision, and generosity.

So during this year end reflection, I would like to give them the recognition that they deserve because even though I feel sorrow for their passing and their struggles, I am better to have known them all. We all have. And that’s a joyful lesson right there.  

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