Love Makes Sense…

The scenes of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami have been shocking and distressing. It is hard to take in that level of devastation and death, even more so when we are one step removed and witnessing such appalling tragedy through a lens.

For those of us who feel drawn to spiritual exploration, it can be difficult to find a comfortable place for this level of suffering, whilst continuing to believe in the benevolence of deity/life. I have wrestled with this issue over the last year or so, my spiritual beliefs rather shaken by it.

Paganism drew me because it allowed a more complex (perhaps to human eyes even ambiguous) view of the Divine. If you embrace the idea that the Divine resides within creation, pretty soon you have to acknowledge the fact that a solely all loving and benevolent Divine is a tricky concept. Nature is magical, beautiful and miraculous; it provides and sustains but it is also darkly violent, destructive, and even cruel. It is easy to embrace a loving God who protects from all harm, and yet, if we live long enough, to varying degrees we will all find out that pain, loss and tragedy are as much a part of the deal, regardless of how we choose to portray our deities.

I have come to realise that although I might feel drawn to the deities that personify creativity, love, abundance and peace (who wouldn’t), the gods of shadow and painful transformation cannot be avoided or ignored by any of us. We don’t necessarily have to set up shrines to them but it seems psychologically healthy to honour their presence in life.

When I witness the horror in Japan, my thoughts are drawn to the Hindu Goddess Kali. Her iconography is challenging: she looks terrifyingly fierce and merciless, wearing her necklace of human skulls and her skirt of severed human hands. It is not a comforting image of the Divine but it has a psychic truth about it that is hard to ignore. Our heads and hands are those parts of us that we use to shape our world; our hands used to actualise our thoughts, to build our visions, and enable our plans. These parts of us allow us to feel that we are in control of our destiny; with our intelligence and our skills of materialisation, we move through the world and time with the notion that we are steering our own ship.

When Kali – the energies of dissolution and destruction – arrives in our lives, either through natural disasters or more personal and individual loss and tragedy, it soon becomes apparent that our notions of being in control crumble. The image of a Goddess who wears severed human hands and heads speaks brilliantly of how impotent we can we feel in the midst of such immense crisis. We are stripped to our core and from this place of powerlessness we are confronted with our most vulnerable and broken selves. It can be a living hell but nature is nothing if not balanced. Hindu thought tells us that destruction, creation and preservation balance themselves in favour of the continuation of life; that life couldn’t possible thrive on preservation alone.

It is not a totally comforting thought to the human mind but when we stand back far enough we see a different take coming into view. The earthquake, from this view, is merely the earth stretching herself, that she might stay healthy and fully functioning for the continuation of life on this planet. It can be so difficult to accept this when the result is such a massive loss of human potential. We can feel incredibly small and insignificant and a loving Divine presence can feel rather absent.

Buddhists advise us to first accept that suffering is a central part of life and from that standpoint, transcend this suffering through compassionate detachment. Paganism encourages us to engage with both the joy and the pain with as much connection as possible, viewing both as valuable life experiences. Both of these approaches have value I think.

I am still trying to work out my own spiritual approach to suffering – it is a work in progress. I have written before about how Hindu devotees of Kali believe that when you have the courage to stare into her terrifying face you will then see a face of immense compassion; that all fear of death and suffering vanishes. Perhaps when we are forced to dig into our own brokenness and vulnerability, we too find a deeper compassion and understanding of life.

I am always deeply touched by how humans risk their own well-being to save others in distress; every natural disaster has story after story of people’s courage in rescuing and caring for others. Kali may confront us with our worst fears; she may almost break us but she also draws from us the deepest empathy and shows us that in the darkest moments there is always love.

There is a path of sorrow; there is a path of joy – we each have one foot on both all  our lives and when reason struggles to bridge the gap, love makes sense of both.

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7 Comments

  1. Penny said,

    March 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Beautifully written Maria. It really touched me at the very time I am trying to pluck up the courage to look Kali in the face. Blessed Be!

  2. Christina Cronk said,

    March 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I never looked at Kali with this viewpoint before, but I think you are right… when we relinquish control, both mind and deed (head and hand), in times of great strife, the underlying balance is realized and our faith is restored. Excellent post.

  3. trish said,

    March 15, 2011 at 1:33 am

    its been a while since i ve read you but i am glad i am back doing it. xx

  4. luckyloom1 said,

    March 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Thank you both! x I don’t think there are any neat resolutions with suffering; I think sometimes we have to somehow bear the fact that in life some wounds cannot be healed, some illnesses cannot be cured, that not all situations can find happy or peaceful resolution. It is a tough thing to accept because we all hope for happy endings and I think it is ceratinly important to have hope and believe in the power of Grace. But there are moments when we have to embrace the brokenness with the knowledge that there is no fix, and it is at those moments that compassion, love and acceptance come into there own. Of course, life is about so much more than suffering but when we find ourselves confronted and overwhelmed by our own or others suffering, I think the notion that life has meaning under all curcumstances, event the most miserable, can be of help.

  5. luckyloom1 said,

    March 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Thanks Trish! Much appreciated! X

  6. sam said,

    March 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    This is so thought provoking Maria, your interpretation of Kali so apt. Thank you for helping me reflect on what has happened in Japan, James is even talking through with me the concept of the ‘the earth stretching itself’. x

  7. luckyloom1 said,

    March 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you Sam! Hope you are well lovely one! I find the idea of the earth stretching a comforting one – without earthquakes, the conditions for life on the planet wouldn’t exist. The human loss remains awful of course but when we understand how the earth functions we can move away from the interpretation of such events as divine punishment or retrobution – which is often the way some folks think about these things, sadly. Lovely to think of James exploring this too! XX


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