On Facing Sorrow
Learn how to suffer. I do not say seek sorrow! but when it comes, and stands in evitable in your path, receive it like a friend. Learn to appreciate its austere beauty, to seize its secret knowledge: study its hidden works, and in place of revolting against it, or resting inert and stunned under its action, associate your will with the aim fixed by sorrow, and seek to draw from it all the profit it can offer to a spirit or a heart. Force yourself to be an example for others, and by your acceptation of it, your courage, and your confidence in the future, render it more acceptable to other eyes. In a word, make sorrow beautiful! Harmony and beauty are universal laws, and in this ensemble sorrow has its aesthetic role.
Elevate yourself by higher views and hopes : see in it the supreme remedy for all the woes of earth. You who bend under the burdens of your trials, you who walk in the silence, no matter what comes, do not despair. Remember that nothing comes in vain, or without cause. Almost all our sorrows come from ourselves in the past, and they open the paths to heaven for us. Suffering is an initiation. It reveals the serious inspiring side of life. Life is not a frivolous comedy, but often a poignant tragedy. It is the struggle for the conquest of spiritual life, and in this struggle we must employ all that is great within us—patience firmness—heroism—resignation. Those old allegories of Prometheus and the Argonauts, and the sacred mysteries of the Orient, had no other meaning. A profound instinct makes us admire those whose existence is a perpetual combat with sorrow, a constant effort to climb the abrupt heights which lead to virgin summits and unviolated treasures. We do not admire only the heroism which brings forth the enthusiasm of crowds, but also that which strives in obscurity against privations, maladies, and miseries, all that detaches souls from material ties and transitory things. They strengthen the character for the combat of life—develop force and resistance—take from the soul all that weakens it—elevate the ideal to the pinnacle of force and grandeur. This is what education should adopt for the essential objective.
Let us open our souls to the breath of space, and lift ourselves to the limitless future. This future belongs to us! our task is to conquer it
- This concludes the five part series (Notes) on “sorrow and suffering” by Leon Denis
Excerpt from “Life and Destiny”, Leon Denis (1846 – 1927), Translated by Ella Wheeler Wilcox