In one of my ethic’s classes in university we discussed whether or not the “collective good”, or if you want to call it the “overall happiness”, of a culture would be greater if there was one person suffering greatly somewhere (and if it would matter if everyone was aware of that person). In this example, the span from good to bad would be greater, instead of everyone experiencing the same amount of happines, thereby the good would be “more good” because the bad was very, very bad. I’m not sure where that conversation ended up, but, in some ways, I bought into that analogy.
For awhile I looked at wisdom and sorrow in terms of dogs and cats. You look at your standard household pet, they don’t know a whole lot. I mean they know some things, but they aren’t going to go out and takeover Microsoft or anything. I always thought that because they didn’t have a lot of “wisdom” that they couldn’t experience joy or sorrow in great portions — because they just weren’t aware enough.
One night, a few months back, Marc was making Olivia laugh and I told him what I just wrote about the philosophy class and the dog/cat bit. And then I said, “But I don’t think that’s true with people. I mean, look at Olivia, how can you see anything but pure joy in her face? She is completely happy.” That’s when what’s been growing inside of me for a while began to make sense.
Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m losing my “spark”. I feel like this year I’ve really become a “grown-up”. And it’s hard. You don’t want to lose all of the ideals of youth, as juvenile and impossible as some may be. You end up having to find (continually) a new balance between hope and reality. And that’s not easy. But, in that moment with Olivia, seeing her so readily have the pure happiness that I experience only in rare moments, the words of a Steve Bell song based on 1 Chronicles and Ecclesiastes made sense to me:
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow
So the more that I know the more sorrow grows
So I guess the older we get and the more that we know, the most “pure” happiness we can experience is always a little bittersweet. Because of what we know. Our wisdom doesn’t take us to a new level of “awareness” that allows us to experience joy in a more profound way. In the end, it is our wisdom that taints the joy. Because we know of the suffering and the hurt of so many individuals and cultures and countries in the world. And our “wisdom” makes it hard for us to simply trust and live in the notion that God can make it all right somehow, sometime.
But perhaps, in the end, it is best to look at the joy that we experience in all of our “wisdom” as special and good simply because we must overcome so much to have those pure moments — all the while trusting that untainted, unencumbered joy will one day again be ours.