Saturday, July 08, 2006

Franz Werfel

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Those Tortured Souls ...
We all know one or two, maybe someone quite close -- a partner? a grown child? yourself?

Some people seem to live large, feeling more, or at least feeling more deeply. Their lives are more full, though not necessarily in ways you might choose. These are the people who arrive on the scene when someone is in crisis -- they get fixed up for a blind date, and the guy is about to declare bankruptcy or has just lost his wife to cancer. They take on a new job and the boss is battling depression. Their own lives usually have some incredible tragedy. They do not live on the surface of things.

Suffering opens us up to others' suffering, of course.

One of the Laws of Emotions is that if you refuse to deal with one emotion, you tamp them all down. If you refuse to suffer and grieve, for yourself, or for and with those around you, you will miss the upside -- the ability to experience deep joy.

And at times the two will be fused, difficult to tease apart. If you have had only a 'golden life' (has anyone?), you cannot know the full range of feelings in the human experience. Knowing this, of course, is not for everyone.

I'm reminded of Nancy Fenn (TheIntrovertzCoach) comment that the inFP (Myers Briggs) has to learn "serve or suffer."

I have watched 2 people over the past year with this sort of Plutonic aspect to their lives turn a corner, leaving behind "selfish" concerns and getting back to what it seems they were meant to do -- serve others.

One was a doctor who hasn't had good marriages. It seems he expects too much in an individual relationship, and gives better to "all," like his patients -- a collective thing, not individuals. Starting with Vietnam, he has dealt with death and suffering on a daily basis. You might say it's his experience, his comfort zone and his area of expertise. He is not overly familiar with elation and joy. Is that "the way it's supposed to be"? It depends. Do we need doctors like that? Definitely.

Another is a naturally giving woman whose life circumstances became very narrow for a time. She withdrew from community with others, and became withholding, critical and judgmental. She seemed to demand of everyone something they would then be resistent to give, usually demanding some sort of personality change in them in exchange for her condescension. Recently for some reason I don't know, she began to give again, and she herself is expanding again. In her case, the giving is in accepting others, not being critical; in lowering the drawbridge so others can come across. It appears to be her lot in life to be the giver not the taker, in the grand scheme of things.

There is no general prescription of course. One person's selfishness is another person's vested self-interest. One person's suffering is another person's masochism. One person's acceptance is another person's lack of discrimination. One person's lonely single life is another person's basecamp for a daily life of service to the general good. One person's connectedness is another person's superficiality.

Franz Werfel was a Czech-born Jew and an author, who escaped from the Nazis; someone who had much experience in living and in suffering. His themes were religious faith, heroism, and human brotherhood.

Werfel’s best-known works include The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933), a classic historical novel that portrays Armenian resistance to the Turks, and The Song of Bernadette (1941). In re: the latter, when he escaped the Nazis, he found regude in the town of Lourdes and promised to "sing the song" of Saint Bernadette if he ever reached his haven -- the U. S.

These lines are from his Theologumena:

“God speaks only to the oldest souls, the ones most experienced in living and suffering. ‘You shall belong to no-one and to nothing, to no party, to no majority, to no minority, to no society except in that it serves me at my altar. You shall not belong to your parents, nor to your wife and children, nor to your brothers and sisters, nor to them who speak your language, nor to those who speak any other — and least of all to thine own self. You shall belong only to me in this world.”

If these lines are for you, you will know.
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