February 17, 2011
On Pain–Khalil Gibran
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Today I went for a walk near the pond by my home. There was a small hole in the sheet of ice and a small puddle of water was visible under the bridge. I saw a shadow of my reflection and I was unhappy what I saw. From last year until now, I learned a lot about the world around me, but I became afraid that I was forgetting about myself. I do not want to lose my sense of self in the flow of life. Recently, I think I have been ruining my relationships with others and that realization had brought a unique type of pain in my heart. Then God’s Invitation found its way to me, inside a poem I read in a book:
Your Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the
daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem
less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
even as you have always accepted the seasons that
pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the
winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within
you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy
in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by
the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has
been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has
moistened with His own sacred tears.
And reading something like this went beyond that–I think I found a certain kind of tranquility the poem was talking about. At least I started to become more aware of faults now. Imagine if I never thought I was making any mistakes at all–then I would really be lost. So I think Khalil Gibran was really on to something by describing pain as breaking our small shells of understanding. That in itself, it has some capacity to heal our hearts (from spiritual illness). And it also rings an echo of things Imam Al Ghazali would say–that often unhappiness and pain is simply God trying to make us turn away from the world, and turn back to Him.
Later in that evening, I was walking outside and I was thinking about that. And I realized God is beautiful–even in the ways He helps us when we mess up. Often people focus on the theme of redemption as a stage of people’s lives/stories, but the stage of pain has a profound influence on an individual’s growth that I do not think should be regarded as bad or be dismissed. How does pain help us grow? How does pain teach us? Maybe that is something to think about.