Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Love More, Not Less":Huston Smith on Loss and Faith

I have been reading Huston Smith's marvelous autobiography, Tales of Wonder, and have been struck by how honest he is in sharing his personal feelings and failings and life challenges. One of the most challenging things that happened to him was the tragic death of his daughter, aged 50, due to cancer, followed by the murder of his grand daughter. Both were beautiful, gifted women whom Huston loved deeply. Losing them was devastating. Because Smith is known to be a spokesperson for religion, a reporter asked him, "Have your tragedies shaken your faith in God."

Huston's response spoke to my condition:

"I thought it a ridiculous question. What about the Holocaust and all the other catastrophes we know as history? They did not make my own loss less but kept me from imagining that I had suffered a unique vengeance that impugned the idea of God instead of making God more necessary.

"Christ said, 'Blessed are those that mourn.' Had I been living in Jerusalem, I would have joined the mourners grieving and praying at the Wailing Wall. Suffering led the Buddha to enlightenment, and it may cause us, against our will, to grow in compassion, awareness, and possibly eventually peace. In Buddhism monks recites daily the Five Remembrances, which are: I will lose my youth, my health, my dear ones and everything I hold dear, and finally lose life itself, by the very nature of my being human. These are bitter reminders the only thing that continues are the consequences of our action. The fact that all the things we hold dear and love are transient does not mean that we should love them less but--as I do Karen and Serena--love them even more. Suffering, the Buddha said, if it does not diminish love, will transport you to the farther shore" (p. 94).

This is the lesson I have learned from the loss of my Beloved--to love God and my fellow human beings more, not less, because everything is transient, except Love itself.

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