When I was a teenager I took up the study of astrology. My dad studied the subject, and it seemed like an interesting thing to do.
I cast my horoscope and discovered that I have an afflicted moon in Pisces. Both the moon and the sign relate directly to feelings. My problem was compounded by the double whammy. I don’t know if astrology works or not, but this afflicted moon is a remarkable coincidence.
I’ve known some sadness. My younger brother, my dad, and my favorite uncle all committed suicide. I acquired some notions of my unworthiness by reflection. My first wife confirmed my expectations of myself. Another uncle dragged me to church, and they fueled my fires of self-doubt.
As a society we are, I believe, inept in the study of sadness and what to do about it.
Perhaps the most crucial step is to distinguish between sadness and depression. Kevin Breel provides a brilliant distinction in his TED Talk. It’s well worth your time to hear his message. And share the link with your friends.
My grandmother saw god as a jealous and vengeful male figure, and she advised me to be alert to my offenses against him. TED Talks did not exist in grandma’s world.
I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament many times early in my life. In chapter 4 of Matthew, Jesus, after fasting for 40 days, is tempted by the devil. The devil wants to embarrass him, and to be worshiped by him. It was at that time, the verse says, that Jesus began advising people to repent. He also worked hell into his sermons. This passage makes a case for the devil and his priorities.
The bible contains a mix of encouragement and threat that confused me then, and it still does.
I think we collectively think of sadness as a weakness. I have come to view that conclusion as an error. The whole world is a study in sadness. We try to avoid that view thinking that sadness is some kind of mark against us. I can say with confidence now that it is not. Sadness is mercy. Sadness is compassion. Sadness is the way we invite people to share themselves with us.
We are collectively judgmental and impatient with the discomforts of others. I think our tolerance of homelessness illustrates this attitude. We are also quick to judge and condemn celebrities who have, in some way, lost their edge.
I no longer consider sadness to be an indicator of weakness. It is a way of honoring life and the creatures that share it with us, both man and beast.
- Distinguish sadness from depression, and act accordingly. Recognize how sadness defines your definition of life.
- Minister to people who are sad. Don’t scorn or judge them.
I’ve read many books by people who identify themselves as gurus. I’m still sad after reading their work.