Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"The Coin That Pays For Ecstasy......."

A highly intelligent and insightful friend sent me an email with this quote at the end.
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"The coin that pays for ecstasy is always stamped despair. One cannot love empathetically until one wanders there."
- Jane Krainin - Dictated right before she died of ALS
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I asked my friend what she thought this quote meant and she replied -
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How can we know joy without an understanding of pain and sorrow?
I think Krainin was saying that what we experience teaches us to understand and love others from a position of empathy for their feelings of pain, and of joy, and that there is a cost attached to that understanding. I had a friend once who survived ALS (only 5% of people who get it do), and she was very philosophical about her condition. She was in a wheelchair, but lived alone, a remarkable woman, who once said to me that she had learned so much about life, and God, and people that she wouldn't exchange that chair for anything. She ultimately died of cancer, but not before she helped a lot of people with ALS.What do you think?
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What do I think? - Well a few weeks ago I was walking along one of Northlands beautiful and pristine beaches and saw this signpost in the sand. A signpost with no message. I think that Jane Krainins quote and my friends explanation should be written on the signpost for all to see and read.
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Thank you my friend, because your insight goes some way to helping me with that old raw theological callus which C S Lewis tried to deal with in a book titled - "The Problem of Pain." Your explanation has increased the displacement of some of the partial answers I have struggled to find. Thank you.
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8 comments:

Paul C said...

This is a very meaningful post with a vivid image and story. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Alden, you touch me in places I didn't know I still had. Thank you.
j

Alden Smith said...

Thankyou Paul, and keep up the good writing on your blog.

Alden Smith said...

Anonymous, thankyou for that affirmation, thats kind of you :-)

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Pal. Absolutely. There is a good feeling that comes with compassion, but it does involve suffering. They are intertwined. It reminds me of the poem, Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye:

Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.


Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.


Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.


Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

—Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under Words: Selected Poems

Alden Smith said...

Dan, thankyou so very much for your comment and especially for taking the time to share that poem which moved me deeply -
What an absolutely profound poem that is. I have never heard of Naomi Shihab Nye but I feel an Amazon dot com search and internet order coming on - Do you have a title of one of his poetry books that you would recommend???

April 21, 2010 8:49 PM

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this insightful message from Jane and your friend and your thoughts, too! Very helpful signpost for life's path. Louise

Alden Smith said...

Thank you Louise :>)