By Sister Pat Kenny
If the Easter narrative taught us nothing else, it did confirm the inevitable truth of joy and sadness in our lives. Wild elation and profound grief will be part of every life; not once or twice, but over and over during the lifetime of every person old enough to understand joy and sadness. Everyone will experience soft and ragged edges of each.
When I watch the Olympics and the skateboard sport they call the halfpipe, I feel the tension between control and abandon ramped up to maximum speed. Like joy and sadness, they swing from one side to the other, never sure they can manage the twists and turns, never certain they’ll make it to the other side or finish still standing.
In a world such as ours, I find strange comfort in the analogy. In the face of yet another mass shooting, unprovoked attack, wild weather tragedy or personal heartbreak, my outrage and misery slowly creep toward the hard reality: this is an essential part of the journey for everyone. Not in equal measures, to be sure, but no one is exempt.
Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the wild adulation of the same people who would scream for his murder five days later teaches us everything we need to know about the fickle and arbitrary forces that manipulate human beings. Centuries of cataclysmic events in every country on Earth are matched by the idyllic and peaceful settings where they once took place.
So what can I learn from all this contradiction? I can think of it like Forest Gump’s mother, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Or I can assume the role of the adventurer, always looking for the next surprise or challenge. Or perhaps I want to see myself as Mary Oliver’s vision of herself, the” bride married to amazement” or “the bridegroom taking the world into my arms.” Open to surprise, whatever it may be, and confident that the grace of God will be sufficient to see me navigate my way up and down the slopes, doing the best I can to maintain a semblance of balance and willing to let the demands of each day challenge me to do what is right, convenient or not.
If I can picture life in all its light and darkness and love it either way, then maybe I can believe that joy and sadness are like different artist oils: titanium white and cerulean blue that a painter mixes on his palette to create a color that has no name but is still beautiful. Then perhaps I can accept with grace and understanding the rightful places of so much joy and so much sadness.