Insane for the light

by jenkb

The name of this blog comes from Goethe’s poem, The Holy Longing:

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

A few weeks ago, I was having a discussion with someone I’d recently met, someone who has been through her share of trials, and probably the shares of a few others as well. She wasn’t sure why, she said, but she felt more comfortable with people who had been through Big Pain.

Big Pain, she said, tended to make people more real, more honest, more understanding. She was right. She knows it, and Goethe knew it: And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on this dark earth.

I named this place Insane for the Light because that’s what I remember most about Big Pain. That feeling of clawing your way upward from pain, determined to rise up from it, grow and learn, and yet you’ve completely lost your marbles. Especially during a divorce, which even has a book written about it called “Crazy Time“, you do go through a period of perfect insanity. You say blunt things to people in elevators. You make repeated phone calls to your estranged spouse expressing your continuing disbelief at his behavior. You fall apart in strange places. You laugh at the wrong times. You stop eating and watch your body disappear. You travel across the Atlantic Ocean to meet someone you know only from television.

This is the insanity from being rearranged at an atomic level against your will, the insanity of what writer Elizabeth Lesser calls “staying awake through pain.” But it’s also an epic pissing match for survival and for growth, a striving for transformation: “And finally, insane for the light, you are the butterfly, and you are gone.”

You are gone.  You have died, and grown.