I got an email forwarded to me recently. It talked about the notion of leveling the path of life.
From a survival perspective, and an economic perspective, this is really good advice. When economic times are good, we shouldn’t be spending all we have, but instead should be paying down any debt we’ve incurred, and putting money aside for the “less good” times that will certainly come our way. As Americans, we can certainly see the wisdom of this approach at this point, after failing to follow this wisdom during all those good economic years, when we spent all our excess in reduced taxes and increased borrowing. Now that the predictable downturn has come, we find that not only do we have nothing in reserve, but we’ve also run up a debt over the last 30 years that is snowballing out of control.
But this email I got wasn’t talking about economics or survival. It was talking about faith and spiritual “investment” of energy. The email seemed to be saying that when things are good, we shouldn’t take too much joy in them, and instead should focus on the less good times we know are coming. By the same token, when times are bad, we should focus on the better times our faith leads us to expect in the future.
I don’t think it’s the same thing. I don’t think we should be treating our spiritual energy in the same way we treat our economic assets. Quite the opposite in fact.
When life drops joy in our lap, we should rejoice in that moment of joy with every molecule of our being. We should savor every little flavor of the joy, and look for ways to multiply it and amplify it and share it with every ounce of our spiritual energy. We should ignore completely the possibility that there may be some moment in the future where we’ll feel spiritually drained and exhausted, utterly dejected, devoid of any joy. We should spend every ounce of ourselves in the joy we’re passing through.
Sometimes life leads us onto dark paths of despair, dejection, and depression. During those times we can try and ignore the pain around us by focusing on the hope of future joy, but I’m not sure this is all that helpful. Certainly I agree with the notion of expecting future joy – hoping for it and praying for it. But that’s quite a different thing than “numbing” the current pain with visions of future joy.
There are times when we need to accept and assimilate the dark path life seems to have led us onto. By accepting it and assimilating it, it works through us and allows us to begin to transform it into the stuff of hope for the future.
It’s darkness that defines light. Shining faint light in the darkness and casting dark shadows on the light makes a morphine-like sameness to life that robs us of both joy and sorrow.
Celebrate every single joyful moment with every single ounce of spiritual energy you’ve got. Doing so will most likely reduce the times of darkness that find entry into your life. But when a moment of darkness and sadness does enter your life, let it work into and through you. Feel all it has to offer. Transform it, don’t numb it.
Enjoy the ride!