Two meditations on loss by Leslie Jamison and Paul Harding, contributed by Steve Shennan (TF, 2019)
"Sorrow casts its shadow and joy lives under it, surviving in its shade. This bleed between joy and sorrow doesn’t mean happiness is impossible, or inevitably contaminated; instead it reveals a more capacious vision of happiness than we might have imagined—not grace will never deliver you from this mess, but grace is this mess. Or at least, grace is in the mess with you.”
Leslie Jamison reviewing Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. The Atlantic, October 2014.
"And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.”
Paul Harding, Tinkers. Bellevue Literary Press, 2008.
The first is perhaps comforting, rejecting a vision of unrelenting sorrow and making space for joy. The second is more aspirational, reminding us that gratitude can be felt even amidst difficulties. Both turn on the concept of grace, a recognition that to be alive is a wondrous gift that none can ever earn but only receive with gratitude, so far as we are able.