On human suffering, despair, depression, melancholy: sadness and humanity: healing tears
A book excerpt from the Iconoclast Press online library.
To serve the spirit is an event beyond explanation, beyond fulfillment, beyond truth, beyond falsehood, and beyond right and wrong. And if the reader thinks that I am merely grandstanding through all of this, let them remember that I have declared myself a sinner, and not a saint. Though if ever I was a saint, it was an afternoon long ago, on North Beach- a thirty kilometer stretch of uninterrupted sand on the north end of the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the coast of British Columbia.
I arrived on the Charlottes and hitched up-island to North Beach, where I spent a few days walking and camping along that massive stretch of sand that is a membrane between the two worlds. And I strolled upon that lengthy wasteland more alone than I had ever been before in my life, and as far away as I had ever been from others, for I had said goodbye to humanity. I was finished with society. I had walked away, because I could no longer endure the inexorable loneliness and agony I could not avoid witnessing in the world.
After a few days of this I sat down one afternoon and the tears began to pour out of me because I saw what would happen to them, what was happening to them- my people- and how impossible the situation was. Nothing could be done. I had left, and left for good, and I screamed with an anguish like Demeter must have suffered when Persephone was sold out from under her into Hades. I wailed like an astronaut who had lifted off from his moribund home planet, heading out to where he knows not, and looking back as the fires raged on, engulfing his old world and everything he cared for in the unstoppable flames. I was not in Heaven, but nor was I in Hell, and the thought of my brethren, toughing it out down there in the bowels of imprisonment was enough to take me down and flagellate my soul. Oh, I begged God that day, begged God to do something, to help them all, somehow, because I could not endure the thought of everyone’s lonely confinement, each in a glass cell facing all other glass cells.
That afternoon I wept on and on because of the agony which had no end, and which it seemed others weren’t even aware of but which devoured them in every act, and every thought, and every minute of the day. And I had walked away from it, because I could not solve it, nor heal it, nor could I face it any longer. I cared too much, more than what was healthy, and more than I could endure. It was the most painful afternoon of my life, so much so that the memory of it even now brings a glossy coating to my eyes.
You see, that day when I cleansed myself of the entire earth’s woe and agony, of all the useless human misery I had witnessed throughout the years, which came thundering down upon me, and I lay there between great gobs of tears, begging God to do something, anything, to fix it, by whatever means, because anguish and loneliness were everywhere, and I could do nothing, and there I lay broken open to the heavens, growling out beseechment to the sky, for I had, throughout the frantic course of my merciless chastening, seen all I needed to see, thought everything I needed to think, and sacrificed all that I had- you see, I knew at that moment that ...God heard me, and God understood.
It was too much. Far too much. And when the day was over I walked back into the forest as if I had died and then risen, cleansed of a burden I could no longer carry.
But that was a long time ago, a time when my heart had no defenses, a time when I couldn’t stop feeling what I couldn’t help feeling, a time when I wanted to fix everything that I now want to see crumble, a time when I sought to help others while still needing help myself, a time when the Father had me by the throat, and the Mother had me by the balls, and only the strength of my heart prevented them from tearing me in two. But I was not strong. My strength came from my weakness. My love came from a lack of poise in the face of another’s agony, my hopes came from not accepting what was hopeless, my prayers came from a lack of faith that all was as it should be.
I see now that it is the Christ within us whose heart weeps for human suffering, and so we must be careful that the sacrificial lamb does not become a scapegoat, for, to be sure, a person can die of grief, as I almost died- once for the world’s pain, and once for my own.
And what I was to find after that emancipating release of stored-up agony, of worldly pain which I had sponged into myself and then had purged out through bitter tears and woe- I found that the trick to living upon this earth without being taken down is to love yourself, but not at the expense of another, and to love another, but not at the expense of yourself, which is to have compassion without empathy, which is to love and yet be free.
For now is the time we must learn to be re-born in Hell, to live in Hell, and to not be in Hell.
I became free of much of what I was carrying back then, and later on I was to become freer because I realized that most people did not need nor want freedom the way I needed and wanted it. Strange, but true. Indeed, like some prisoners of concentration camps in the Second World War, who, it is said, upon having the chance of certain escape, chose to remain where they were rather than face the uncertainty of freedom, I encountered many people happily dwelling in cages that had long ago been torn down.
That was when I learned to leave each to their own loneliness and sorrow- for it was their lesson, their way, and their only chance of return- and I should not bandage the bloodletting, or the worm would never be gone.
Indeed, I learned to stop trying to relieve misery from people’s lives when I realized that they got out of life what they needed, what they deserved, or what they wanted, and, in fact, that much of their anguish was God-given pain.
And so, I had to clean myself out, and only myself, open up, and break down the walls which separated me from the rest of the miracle, though at the same time I had to cease letting others inside me, had to cease taking on their sin, and so block their anguish from devouring me internally. For once I had shed my skin, I found that others could easily crawl within.
That was when I took my white wings off, and put my black armor on. That was when my love turned from a feather into a sword. There was no other way.
To be sure, it happens to all of us eventually: you come innocently into life, laughing and playing and clowning about, the world pushes you forward, the days blend into years, everything appears to be reasonable, actual, and true. And then one rainy afternoon you stop suddenly in the tepid process of the day. You sit gently down for no reason. You stare into the senselessness of it all while the tortured miracle of life blurs away before your trembling eyes. And you begin to weep and weep and weep from all the hidden fault and pain, and you wonder why the hell it is the way it is, and you do not know, and it’s all gone, all of it, and the whole show has the numb, eternal ache of a phantom limb you never knew you had.
But when the tempest has passed on, and the wind blows the clouds into sun, the implausible absurdity and miracle of life then suddenly cascades like benedictions down upon your fallen soul and an unknown smile is born within which flips the madness over, lifting you up agog and howling. That is what happens.
Indeed, until you have laughed yourself silly from loss, you have lost nothing, and neither have you laughed. For it is only then, through the critical gloom of becoming, when the impotent conciliations run turgid, and the swollen vein runs dry, that the folly may begin to delight itself, and that is when you begin to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and not even know why you are laughing.
 I can say that at one terrible point in my life I believe I had fallen victim to cancer. Never was I diagnosed by a doctor, but I had many intuitions and dreams that things were not well, and had three close friends, from half-way around the world, contact me during that time and tell me of dreams they had in which I was in great trouble, or dying. I believe I was dying, because of sorrow. And I believe that I was healed because I made the decision to love life. And that is that. Sorrow will kill, and joy will save.
(excerpted from Roots and Wings: adventures of a spirit on earth, by Jack Haas)
Books by Jack Haas: Autobiography, Memoir, Spirituality, Mysticism, Comparative Religion, Poetry, Art, Photography.