The Weeping Mode
As a parent of young children, I often wonder about how much of the pain and brutality of the world we ought to expose our kids to—which conversations do they need to be absent from, which books and films could they do without exposure to, and when it is appropriate to let them in on the secret that the world can sometimes be kind of a nasty place (I suspect it’s quite often not as much of a “secret” to them as we might like to think). There can be a fine line between helping your children see that the world is a safe enough place to love and learn and grow and not shielding from the reality of a messed-up world in desperate need of compassionate, committed, and resourceful people to make it better.
This morning I came across a fantastic quote from Richard Rohr (via Mike Todd) that I think beautifully expresses our obligation to the young. This comes in the context of a discussion of the Beatitudes:
In this third Beatitude, Jesus praises the weeping ones, those who can enter into solidarity with the pain of the world and not first of all try to separate themselves from it. On our initiated men’s t-shirts, we have a quote from the American Indians, “A young man who cannot cry is a savage. An old man who cannot laugh is a fool.”
If you learn how to enter into solidarity with human suffering when you are young, you will create a humanity that makes it possible for you to smile when you are old. What a paradox. If the young are not led into this human “community of pain” in the first half of life, they become hardened, egocentric, and entitled very early in their lives. Yet baby boomer parenting has thought we needed to—or could—shield our children from all pain and human suffering. I don’t think Jesus would agree with that at all.
“The weeping mode” allows one to carry the dark side of things, the “tears of things” as the Latin poet said, to bear the pain of the world without needing to define perpetrators or victims, but instead recognizing the tragic reality that both sides are usually caught up in. I must hold these contradictions, I need to suffer them, I let them transform me. The weeping mode of life is quite different than the succeeding mode, the controlling mode, the fixing mode, the climbing mode, or even the explaining mode. Perhaps it is in the Beatitudes more than anywhere else that we see how utterly counter-cultural Jesus really is.
Adapted from Jesus’ Plan for the New World, p.133