I remember my beloved mother-in-law telling me once–and I think she was in her seventies– that where she used to believe she understood things, held strong opinions of what was good and what was bad, the older she got, the less certain she became.
At the time it puzzled me. But I have noticed that often what I think a blessing produces such thorns I can hardly grasp it, while what I view as terrible turns out to wear a crown. I’m thinking about this as I view with horror another Black child killed by police bullets, or migrant children pulled from parents, locked in cages, the anguish of parents searching for children who were forcibly stolen by Faceless Government — my government, “by the people, for the people;” removed by elected officials, not some vengeful 14th century ruler (I’m thinking of one duke who took pleasure in sitting on the locked trunk in which his enemy pounded and screamed, as he starved to death).
In Medieval times every star and every month, every tree and day of the week, was governed by an angel. The angel for June is Muriel (of all odd names), who governs the sign of Cancer– and yet as I write this, on the day after the Solstice, her sweet springtime is already giving way to Verchiel’s July, with the blessings of corn and raspberries and verdant greens that soon will turn to the drought-ridden August browns of the angel Hamaliel.
Especially in dark times, I remind myself that blessings pour upon us–blessings of unexpected joys, and curious coincidences, and time warps that work mysteriously in our favor, with daily demonstrations of kindness, tolerance, patience, equanimity, honor, goodness. Not to mention simply happiness. That’s a blessing. William James the philosopher, remarks that the word sane (from Latin sano) means health — and health he defined as happiness. The sane person is happy. It comes from inside. Sanity, happiness, is distinguished by the absence of fear, the absence of hate.
Here’s the secret: Do I want to be happy? Then I must watch my thoughts. Am I filled with gratitude, a sense of the adventures of life? Am I fearful, boiling with anger, or gnawing on resentment, drinking the poison of my indignation and expecting someone else to die?
When I give in to fearful righteousness, and especially when I fall into depression, think myself powerless, then I am robbed of courage– and of happiness. Yes, I don’t know the outcome of any decision or situation — that this will bring good and that will bring bad– but still I must, high-hearted, and happy, ACT.