Q: I am a clinical psychologist, and my personal life has included much suffering as well as many wonderful moments and even some miracles! I strive to live in the moment, and my life has been dedicated to helping others since I was very young. Overall, however, life seems to be so difficult for everyone. Wars, disease, hatred, violence, injustice, hunger, abuse….I could go on. It seems that we are always responding to these. I am a very strong individual, so I was not writing to complain, but just often wonder, besides the natural world of vegetation and animals, what’s so great about being here, versus “there?” This is probably an unanswerable question. Nevertheless, thanks again for responding. — Cynthia

A: Dear Cynthia,

It’s true that there is a great deal of heartbreak and suffering in the world. And it is so easy for the pain of that knowing to eclipse the beauty, truth and goodness in the world and yet, beauty, truth and goodness are never far away. It sounds like part of you is well familiar with that as you write of experiencing “many wonderful moments and even some miracles!”

As I read your message and sat quietly thinking of how I might respond to you the following quote came to me “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” (Joseph Campbell). I don’t know whether this will resonate with you at, all but there’s something about that invitation, to constantly come back to the place inside us which can (and does) feel the tender (and sometimes exuberant!) pulse of joy – and recognition of a far vaster picture – that feels very compelling to me.

Going back to the question of “what’s so great about being here, versus “there?” Perhaps it is an unanswerable question. Certainly it’s a very personal one as there is such variety among the perspectives of what “there” is like. Or if there is actually a “there” there! What we do know is that there is a “here” now and so that feels to me somewhat more workable.

Again, I wish you all good things on this journey of questioning and discovery. I am glad to hear you find our website helpful. I do too. I just reread the essay about Etty Hillesum and found myself immensely moved by the account of her life.

With kindness and deep respect for the difficult and valuable work you do,

Saoirse McClory

Gratefulness.org Webteam