August 19 – The Necessary Privilege – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“Not to feel is to stop the heart from breathing.”

So often, we war against sadness as if it were an unwanted germ, and pine after happiness as if it were some promised Eden, whose gate is keyed to the one secret flaw we need to rectify in order to be worthy. Even our Constitution attempts to rescue us from the hard, full journey of individuation, ensuring what no government can ensure, the soul’s contentment; suggesting that happiness is our inalienable right, while implying that to experience sadness leaves us somehow deprived.

Yet it is no mistake that to suffer means to feel keenly. For to feel deeply and precisely with full awareness is what opens us to both joy and sorrow. It is the capacity to feel keenly that reveals the meaning in our experiences.

If you are thirsty, you can’t dip your face to the stream and say, “I’ll only drink the hydrogen and not the oxygen.” If you remove one from the other, the water cannot remain water. The life of feeling is no different. We cannot drink only of happiness or sorrow and have life remain life.

The truth is, that as the lungs make use of the air we breathe, the heart makes use of the things we experience. Thus, to be alive is to feel. This is our right. To feel keenly is our necessary privilege.

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