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.