reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

Dear children, my children,

There are some things in life that are scary. You won’t want to face them. Sometimes those things are outside in the big confusing world. And sometimes they are inside, in your big confusing heart. Wherever they are, you must not be afraid to face them. There will be a deep temptation not to face them. It is much pleasanter to turn away from them or to pretend they are not there. That can work for a little while. Alas, eventually, you will come face-to-face with them. The day of reckoning is so much worse than if you had just faced them in the beginning.

The other side of that scary however is so much fruit. Jordan Peterson says, “That which you most need to find will be found where you least wish to look.” Children, if you want to find the treasure, you will have to dig through some mess to find it. Have courage.

Jordan Peterson goes on to say, “It has been known for decades, explicitly (and forever implicitly) that self-initiated confrontation with what is frightening or unknown is frequently curative. The standard treatment for phobias and anxiety is therefore exposure to what is feared. That treatment is effective—but the exposure must be voluntary.”

This means that I cannot force you to face scary things or to ask hard questions or to dive too deeply into your own heart. That is your job—and your joy as well. Because if you ask tough questions from the world, from God, from yourself, you will get real answers. True, they may not be the answers you want. But truth is always more beautiful in the long run than a half-truth or an outright lie.

My children, never live a lie. Never say one. Because what you say and what you do must match in order for you not to lose yourself. Speak what is transcendent—true, good, and beautiful. Then, please, I beg you, have the courage to live what is true, good, and beautiful.

I was thinking of the hard questions I did not ask of myself, of God, of the world or of others who I let into the deepest parts of my heart. I am no great model of courage now, but when I was your age, I was even more cowardly. I was afraid to ask questions for which I didn’t want to know the answers. Before I got married I asked questions—about externals. Very pragmatic and outward things. I did not ask deep questions of my own motives and desires. I did not ask deep questions of your father either. I was afraid to face myself, him, my family, the world at large. I was just afraid. I let that fear guide me and I didn’t have anyone in my life to say, “Ask the damn questions! Dig until you are satisfied and until you find beauty.”

So, I am telling you now, dear children. Ask. Dig. Do not be afraid of the questions, the answers which Rilke says you may not be given, because you would not be able to live them. But if you keep living the questions you may live your way into the answers.

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