Many are looking for levity these days, and with all the overwhelm of a world in turmoil, it might feel like the only thing that can facilitate a little sanity. There’s a compulsion to read lighthearted stories, partake in side-splitting humor. A propensity to eschew ‘negative’ people; turning heads away from ‘heavy’ scenes. Those that equate gravity with fear and terror may well believe that seeking the depths means drowning in them.
Maybe it’s always been human to gravitate toward levity. Or was it purely the privilege of those who possessed the luxury to pursue it, up until somewhat recent times? From Marie Antoinette to Caligula, nations collapsed under the frivolities of those well positioned to prevent it, while ignoring their power to improve the lot of others. The ugly truth of poverty and disease was likely a bit too close to the bone. And so avoid it they did – on the backs and under the service of countless others.
Eastern Buddhist teachers such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh encourage us to pursue happiness, and Westerners embrace it like a lover. Yet despite our mantras and yoga classes, true happiness seems to elude us. What are we in search of? Things to soothe our troubled minds? People? Situations? Avoidance of life’s grittier aspects does not usher in true happiness, for it can only be discovered within, with eyes wide open to all that life presents. Contentment is not grounded in complacency. It weathers fluctuations and discrepancies.
Gravity provides food for the soul the way graves nourish worms. Don’t we garner sustenance in the dark; discover the complexities of what we normally eschew during daylight hours? Just as we require a good night’s sleep, unconscious and dreaming, in order, experts say, to remain sane – don’t we likewise need to integrate these undercurrents with our waking selves in order to become fully conscious, awake and aware? For isn’t this simply the ground of our existence – light, dark, and the grey spaces in between?
Perhaps it’s simply easier to confuse darkness with evil in a primarily patriarchal world. Although history does well to remember the plethora of matriarchal cultures – from Africa to India to northern Europe – supplanted by the Judeo-Christian sky god only a couple thousand years ago. Balances shift, perceptions alter. Levity is balanced by gravity, and vice-versa. To honor the ground we walk upon is to pay homage to Mother Earth. To accept the inner life we have been given, replete as it is with adversity and joy, shadow and light – is to dwell in perpetual peace; in lasting happiness. No illusion can grant us that gift.