From Terrible Pain to Discovered Joy
Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 29 May 2016.
By John Abbate.
Call the world if you Please “The vale of Soul-making”.
How do we find joy in life?
Dr Macnab begins his address, and his answer to that question, with a discussion of the “anatomy of sadness”. Each part of our sadness is a burden in itself. According to the anatomy of sadness, our sadness keeps taking us back to the original tragedy, to the source of sadness. And it quickly gathers a host of other emotions.
“That sadness has a way of burrowing into your brain and body,” said Dr Macnab. It affects mental functioning and bodily health. Sadness changes our whole experience of life, our capacity for enjoyment, and our way of coping. The blanket of our sadness is smothering; it obscures our view and dulls our “fantasy of the future”, the hopeful expectation of life’s joys to come.
“Sadness and sorrow begin to settle into your body and change the way you breathe,” said Dr Macnab.
The transition to a joyful state is accompanied by a gentler, easier breath.
We are not able to know who the Jesus of history really was, nor what he said exactly, but we do know he was pointing to something enormously significant, “something beyond him, beyond us all.” And Jesus pointed to several simple, yet profound truths. One example that concerns us here is the notion that “the load can be lightened.”
The burden of our sadness can be lifted.
“The miracle of life is such that even in the pain of loss, we realise we can still love what has been lost. It will be a different love, can be a deeper love, and despite the distress involved, there can follow a new demeanour, a new dignity,” said Dr Macnab.
“Joy is to rediscover a little beauty in the external world; to rediscover the power of poetry; to rediscover the power of the mind.” We search for joy within as well. Dr Macnab calls it the “joy of being”; it is the joy of being authentically present. It is about being able to see the “flourish of life” and to go with the flow.
Dr Macnab lays out six pathways to joy. We search for joy,
- In our body and breath
- In the world of beauty
- In just being—being here, being open, being authentic
- In courage—bringing out courage, speaking courage, living courage
- In the many buzzes of life—in the experience of extraordinary events, in ideas and in works of art, music and poetry
- In grace
“Joy awaits us in the moments of grace,” said Dr Macnab.