a realistic dose of cynicism


initial thoughts on A Grief Observed

“I had yet to learn that all human relationships end in pain–it is the price that our imperfection has allowed Satan to exact from us for the privilege of love.” -Douglas S. Gresham, the introduction to A Grief Observed

All human relationships end in pain, whether it’s through bitterness, neglect, estrangement, or worse.

But at the same time, we humans seem to start and deepen such relationships, knowing full well that they all invariably end in pain. And it seems to be true that the deeper and more intimate the relationship, the deeper the anguish and sorrow when we are inevitably seemingly robbed of it. So why do we do it? Why do we bother?

It’s not because we think that all the joy we can discover in the company of another person could ever displace the eventual crushing sadness of grief when we lose them. It’s not because we figure it’s a zero-sum game. It’s not even sufficient to say that we do it for the joy of the moment, regardless of whether that moment lasts for mere minutes or sustains through many seasons.

But it’s not a zero-sum game. Of course you could say, ‘let’s just average out all the joy and pain and call it a straight line; a constant, monotonous, average value.’ But still, we don’t. There *is* something to be gained through the pursuit of deep human relationships.

If that constant average value is the state completely devoid of relational sentiment, then any deviation from that value, either positive or negative, constitutes an emotion that we feel. And if we believe that any joyful deviation must always be accompanied by a corresponding dose of sorrow, then nudging that line upwards will invariably cause a downward dip later.

But in our minds, somewhere, we must think that it’s all worth it; that we would rather experience both effervescent joy and love in the splendor of God’s creation and then the anguish that later accompanies it.

Much like finding the average value of a sinusoid, life cannot simply be approximated by taking the emotional average. A life with its relational emotional peaks and valleys derives infinitely more meaning than a life without any of the above.

The ability to feel both joy and sorrow versus the inability to feel anything makes us more than just a constant value.

We’re more than just a swatch of 18% gray.

As Switchfoot put it, we’re more than “just okay”.



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