Like It or Not

Coming into being is apparently not easy. From galaxies to stars to humans to any being that has to break its way out of an egg or a seed, taking form in this existence involves a good deal of struggle.

It’s so tempting to ask why, but that’s like asking why the lupine dotting the hillsides these days are purple. You can explain it in terms of the wavelengths of light, but that really only answers how they are purple, not the more fundamental why not red? In this case, why is not a useful question, as it says in one of Anne Lamott’s essays.

We are always coming into existence, but we—or at least certainly I—am not always happy about the struggle. There are things that we accept are going to be hard—giving birth, climbing Mount Everest, losing a loved one—and there are things that we can see will be hard for others—adolescence, for example. Yet we don’t tell anyone, you know, why don’t you just skip this whole adolescence thing, it’s not much fun. Whether a society has healthy or unhealthy ways of helping its members through this stage, they all still have to go through it.

And we don’t emerge fully formed at 20. As long as we’re alive, we’ll continue to be drawn forth. We’ll be invited to deeper and deeper communion with life, we’ll continue to be created, and that means we’ll continue to struggle.

In all likelihood, we’ll continue not to like that struggle, but maybe there’s something beyond our liking or not liking it. Maybe there’s a way to say, oh, this is happening, not in a passive but in a participatory way. And maybe that’s when it gets easy, not the kind of easy I generally picture where everything matches the version of life in my head but some other kind of easy that we can’t understand until we experience it.

This is one of those things I didn’t make up. The great religious traditions all include this idea. Now if only I would listen.