The Paradox of Life


Existence is a gift. We have no reason to think it otherwise. The only thing that competes with it and may convince us that existence is not worth it is suffering. A while ago, a friend asked me why God made him this way, referring to a great perversion in his mind and body that he had to deal with.  Why could he not be like other people who seemed to suffer less? Why was he given this torment, this sin? Why was he given a bodily disease that caused daily pain and may turn out to be cancer later on? One may as well ask why we lie, steal, hurt others, contract disease, and wither away till we die. All is a perversion of the mind and body. And it seems all of us were born this way. Why did God, if he did not make us this way, let it happen to us in this manner? Life, indeed, gives us great cause to weep, to mourn our wretchedness. Should we cherish existence even when it is accompanied by pain? Or should we do as Ivan Fyodorovitch and respectfully return God his ticket; to resign from this life?

Yet, existence does not only give us cause to mourn, but also makes us sing. For the great joys of family, laughter, love, and beauty envelope us and make us cling to existence with a fierceness. Every day my youngest daughter (3 months old) smiles at me I can’t help but smile back. Somebody made the objection, “But she smiles all the time.” I replied, “Yes, and I love it all the time.” May I never be bored of such a thing. And, oh, to drink in the beauty of the mountains and the sea; to feel the sun warming my face and see it set amongst a myriad of colors painted on the canvass of the sky; to know the intimate love of another human being and share our very souls — it is an awakening, a stirring of the soul into thankfulness. One may as well ask just as relevantly as before, why God made life in such a manner. At times, many of us have felt as if we would ask God for another ticket or one that affords us a longer stay.

What I’m getting at, is not a call to complete pessimism about life, or a complete optimism about life; neither is it a combination of the two. What I am saying is that since there is cause for weeping and singing in life, let us do both. Let weeping have its full freedom and the same for singing. There is a time for laughter and a time for mourning. Let us do as life indicates — complain and be thankful about life. Let us weep and sing; and sing and weep while we experience both sorrow and love. Life is bittersweet.

Ah, my dear angry Lord
Since Thou dost love, yet strike,
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise,
I will bewail, yet approve;
All my sweet-sour days
Will lament and love.

— George Herbert

If we find ourselves, in the end, clinging to existence — saying that life is worth it no matter what the pain; we will find that we love God himself. God is pure existence and the source of all of it. Love of it is love of him.

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4 thoughts on “The Paradox of Life

  1. Existence is a gift. We have no reason to think it otherwise.

    Wow. How do you figure?

    A while ago, a friend asked me why God made him this way, referring to a great perversion in his mind and body that he had to deal with.

    A great perversion?
    What do you mean?

    Why could he not be like other people who seemed to suffer less?

    Could you give a good answer?

    Why was he given this torment, this sin?

    He was given sin?
    I didn’t know that was possible.
    Sins are given?
    Really?

    Why was he given a bodily disease that caused daily pain and may turn out to be cancer later on?

    He was given a disease?
    This is a divine smiting type thing or something?

    One may as well ask why we lie, steal, hurt others, contract disease, and wither away till we die. All is a perversion of the mind and body.

    Perversion.
    That word again.
    Hmm.

    And it seems all of us were born this way. Why did God, if he did not make us this way, let it happen to us in this manner?

    There’s an answer coming soon, right?

    Yet, existence does not only give us cause to mourn, but also makes us sing. For the great joys of family, laughter, love, and beauty envelope us and make us cling to existence with a fierceness. Every day my youngest daughter (3 months old) smiles at me I can’t help but smile back.

    That’s it?
    Oh.

    Why could he not be like other people who seemed to suffer less?
    “Well, um, existence does not only give us cause to mourn, but also makes us sing.”

    Why was he given this torment, this sin?
    “Well, um, you see every day my youngest daughter (3 months old) smiles at me I can’t help but smile back.”

    Why was he given a bodily disease that caused daily pain and may turn out to be cancer later on?
    “Ah, yes. Good question. Glad you brought it up. Existence does not only give us cause to mourn, but also makes us sing.”

    And it seems all of us were born this way. Why did God, if he did not make us this way, let it happen to us in this manner?
    “Funny you should ask. As it happens, every day my youngest daughter (3 months old) smiles at me I can’t help but smile back.”

  2. Poetry is meant to convey a concept or a truth. Sometimes a feeling, however ambiguous, finds poetry the perfect venue. Is anyone’s thoughts perfectly clear one hundred percent of the time. Are not our writings, indeed our poetry, a way of sorting out our thoughts? And there is a beauty in that. O that we could have clarity as our dear cynical Cedric! However, I would choose the mystery and beauty of poetry any day.

    Seriously, is not God omnipresent? Is He in only beauty and not in suffering? Was not Jesus the Prince of Suffering? Did He not learn obedience by the things He suffered…a suffering that was not punishment?
    Through suffering, our eyes are open, and we gain treasured perspective that makes us wise and teaches us to cherish the beauty…and the suffering that revealed the Divine. The shallows can then be appreciated because we have experienced the murky depths and found God there.

    This world is full of beauty and suffering. We brought the suffering…God allowed it. He is also redeeming it….not doing away with it…yet, but “turning ashes into beauty, giving the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Now that’s biblical poetry for ya.’

    Yes, let us embrace both beauty and suffering with all of our hearts. That is true existence.

  3. The age-old question… Why does God allow bad things to happen? Then: Are they truly bad things? What is a truly bad thing? If God allows all things, good and bad; how can we tell the difference? Why should we? If we are pawns to be moved about, with the guise of ‘free will’ leading us, what is the point?

    “What can we say of this? I occurred. I am not…yet, I occurred.” -Frank Herbert

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