This blog post is the last issue of The Healing Journey, the letter I send out to subscribers. You may subscribe here to receive the email.
This past August my parents and our family suffered the loss of Maggie, our beloved Great Dane, to bone cancer. A few weeks after Maggie died my mother announced that she was getting a new puppy. I was surprised. When Maggie was deteriorating my mum had stated very clearly that she would never get another dog.
“You said you weren’t going to get another dog,” I reminded her.
“I know,” she answered, “But I can’t bear the agony of nothing.”
“The agony of nothing,” I repeated, impressed by her ability to name so aptly our existential human emptiness, “That’s it. Right there. That is what it all comes down to. If we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing–”
“We’re doomed!” she interjected.
That wasn’t exactly what I was going to say. I was going to say that if we cannot learn to bear the agony of nothing then we are destined to get a puppy to make the pain go away. But what happens when the puppy dies and we are once again left with that “deep-down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no-hope, end-of-the-world, what’s-the-use loneliness”? (Thank you, Charlie Brown.)
Well, we can always find something else to temporarily relieve the dread. There is no shortage in today’s world: shopping, sex, TV, booze, dope, chocolate cake. On and on it goes.
Eventually those things stop working, too, and the Black Hole returns. What then? How do we bear the Agony of Nothing?
By spending time with it.
Yup. When when we stop trying to a-void the Void, when we make friends with the thing we fear most, it becomes transformed. Solitude is no longer lonely and Silence is no longer empty.
It takes great courage to do this. Exploring the foreign territory of our inner lives can be terrifying. It is the Great Unknown, after all. I myself have uncovered a hundred forms of fear living inside of me. By getting to know these fears intimately and confronting my terror head-on, their power has been massively reduced. And I’m happy to report that I have been liberated by at least eighty-seven of them. Maybe eighty-eight.
This is how healing actually happens. Interior freedom occurs when we walk through the fear rather than run from it, work with the pain rather than alter it. Entering fully into the Agony of Nothing creates, miraculously, the Possibility of Something. That Something is better than a puppy. Because it is, in fact, Everything.
Thus begins the astonishing process of living from our Everythingness instead of from the agony of our nothingness. And it is a process. And puppies are most definitely allowed.
From the fires of love,