Why I Love Sorrow

The story of the Egyptian Goddess Isis tapped a long buried part of me, a part of me that felt betrayed and steeped in sorrow since I was a little girl.

Isis loved her brother Osiris and was – in keeping with the autonomy of the gods – also his wife. But their younger brother Set slaughtered Osiris in a jealous rage and scattered his body parts needlessly. Isis and her sister Nephthys swiftly scoured the land for his parts, and Isis magically pieced him back together, securing one night to consummate their love and bear their son Horus. Isis hid Horus from the fierce Set until Horus could one day battle Set himself. Horus lost an eye to Set but gained his freedom and power in the end. Osiris became the God of the Dead, and Isis was revered and worshipped as a cunning and maternal protector.

So adored was this trilogy of power, even the Greek King Alexander the Great embraced the sacred family of gods, and the love for Isis eventually extended even to England.

The part of this story that cut me deep was at the heart of Isis’ lifelong sorrow and it was as though I could feel it. The shock of losing her lover, and their beautiful life together, as a result of someone who should have also loved them. The sorrow of such an early death. The sorrow of betrayal. The sorrow of being hated for her own divine beauty and strength. The fact that she was a badass who tricked Ra, therefore obtaining her magical strength, and usurped the power of wicked Set only made her a goddess I felt would inspire hope.

Because she didn’t just leave it all alone and grieve and weep and sulk and curl up and die. She didn’t lament for long, even though that sort of loss can never be fully healed.

She did something about it.

She took back what was salvageable, and birthed something from it.

She rose to an even greater power, that which comes from the mutual devotion of her people, and the respect of the gods. The lessons of these divine entities is always a relatively simple one. Isis represents an idea, a spiritual value of rising up and choosing the way of the survivor, the path to make things right. She comes to accept that greater things are now at hand. A son born of sorrow and love now emerges, and glory is restored!

Who better to watch out for others, to empathize and protect us than someone who had been shattered by loss, then rallies and flourishes?

For who could be better to help the suffering than those who have suffered as well? Who better to bring hope and power to those who feel beaten and despondent? Who better to bring the sorrowful world back to life and fight until it is won?

Who would better know about the need for courageous love than those who were once hated?

No one.

The Upside of Pain

A young mother shared her tears with me about the hardship of her wailing child. She told me that she, her husband and their little boy had gone into the gentle forest to commune with the divine, to set up camp and be one with the elements and find solace in the quiet and power of the wild.

She had hoped to get spiritual.

Only things didn’t turn out as she had expected.

Well, that was her first mistake, I suppose. Expecting. Not an easy thing to avoid, but I digress.

She told me how her child, normally so agreeable, spent the entire 3 days raging and fighting with thrashing, screaming, inconsolable tantrums. Other campers nearby suffered with them, only to increase the madness of his defiance.

The child was not ill, but he was definitely expressing his childish form. They finally surrendered and returned home and the peaceful child they knew returned as well.

What is the lesson in this story? Never leave home to find spiritual sustenance? Well….no.

The lesson here is that my friend had an idea of how to gain a spiritual experience. She did not fully recognize that it is in our suffering that we gain the depths of spiritual growth.

If our lives were entirely filled with all that we needed, if food was plentiful, if homes were without flaw, if children behaved, we would want for nothing. And we would not wonder for a moment about the unseen world. We would forget that something beyond us exists. We would be blind and grossly arrogant and self-satisfied. We would not be grateful, nor strive, nor understand the suffering of others.

When things don’t go as we expected, or trials generate a suffering so great as to stop and notice, we are in a perfect storm of facing our humanity, our fragile and precious state.

Therefore, I remember this when my back aches, when I miss being held, when my milk goes sour. I remember the glory of my growth when my best friend betrayed me, when my cat was stolen, when I had to walk home for miles in my bare feet on a Sunday morning.

Our longing brings that most potent of riches, a recognition of how very sweet it is to come home and find a beloved child sleeping.