How Are You?
Sorrow and its comrade death are our twin companions on the journey of life, and they come in sizes ranging from small to xxx-large. Life’s sorrows fill us with sadness and depression while death—be that of your job, a relationship or a life companion—is a burden of sorrow almost too heavy to bear.
When I’m on my deathbed I wonder if I will be asked, “How are you?” If so, I hope to reply, “It is unity that doth enchant me. By her power I am free though in bondage, happy in sorrow, rich in poverty, and quick even in death.” So said the Italian Giordano Bruno before being burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in 1600 for his heretical teachings. To be “happy in sorrow” as was Bruno isn’t heretical, rather it’s heroic, holy, and it is a goal to seek in our personal sufferings.
The Russian author Aleksei Peshkov, known as Gorki (“the bitter one”), gives us another radical response to suffering. He wrote of the appalling sufferings of the Russian peasants in the late 1800s prior to the Communist revolution. Gorki reported how from their lives of endless misery and tedious daily grind Russian peasants learned to make of their sorrow “a diversion, an entertainment, playing with it like a child’s toy…a carnival of grief.”
We Americans are spared a lot of life’s sorrows experienced by those in poorer undeveloped countries (as well as having access to painkillers). Is this the reason for when it comes our way we find suffering so difficult to endure—or is it our attitude toward sorrow? Can we adopt the challenge to view our personal sufferings like a Russian peasant or that Italian heretic burned at the stake?
If so, while suffering intensively for whatever reason on the inside, when someone asked how we were we could say, “Great, life for me today is like a carnival!”
They might logically reply, “Well, if it’s a carnival, how do you explain that walker you’re now using?” And we’d respond, “Oh, this thing? It’s my new toy, and I’m having great fun with it!”