Monday, May 21 , 2018, 5:53 pm | Mostly Cloudy 65º


Susan Ann Darley: Finding Beauty in All Circumstances

There is good to be found in even the seemingly bad things in life

Often asked is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It’s been asked for eons, with many assorted answers — some Biblical, intellectual and, more often than not, emotional. What if we dropped the label of “good” and “bad”? How does that change the question?

“Why do things happen to people?” It becomes neutral. It’s now easy to accept that they happen because that’s the way it is. But the problem with this is that we are not neutral people, we are feeling people. And it is through our feelings, not surface emotional reactions, but our deep feelings that the purpose of so-called “bad” things is ultimately revealed.

Years ago after writing a rough draft article about Henry and Dina Sarna, both Holocaust survivors, Henry said to me, “You did not capture the beauty.” I had no idea what he meant.

Henry and his family awakened to the horrors of the war upon learning that 3,000 Jews had been herded into a local synagogue by the Gestapo and burned alive. He survived four concentration camps, being shot and wounded during an attempted escape and a death march. He was liberated on May 8, 1945, at age 22 and weighed 70 pounds.

The Sarnas described in great detail the atrocities they endured, which I revealed in my article, yet he said I had not “captured the beauty.” I reread my notes carefully and slowly began to extract the good, which revealed itself through their spirit.

And that is exactly what we have to do in order to make sense of life. We must go beyond the appearance, which often mesmerizes, terrifies and causes pain, and search for the good. Our feeling side, our heart and our humanity will lead us to it.

Just as I was recently led to an online post by a friend of mine’s husband, Robert Parker, who is, in his own words, a “teacher, composer, organist, percussionist, theatrical designer, magician, your typical Yale overachiever” — and a few years back diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

On April 30, 2011, Robert posted the following on his blog:

“A red-leaf Japanese maple tree, in my backyard. Last summer, it got completely fried by the heat. Its beautiful foliage completely burned away. All that was left was a skeleton, with a vaguely sort-of green trunk. And now, it has burst into red leaves again.

“It’s not what it once was; you can still see the ‘skeleton’ of what it used to be, of what used to hold quite stunningly beautiful foliage. But along the trunk, you can see that it is quite enthusiastically covered with leaves.

“What is the tree doing? Making the best of what it has; shedding not a drop of its lifeblood on the old, dead branches, but pouring it all into wherever it can grow, and gather light; and its new growth starts not at the ends of dried out, broken limbs, but on its trunk, at its core.

“How is this not a living parable, a living sermon, for not just MS sufferers, but for humanity? Don’t waste any energy on what was and what can’t be. Put all your strength into what you can do. Don’t rebuild starting at the ends and the edges. Build from your core, from your center.”

The depth and wisdom of his words remind me that living creatively is when we move from personality to soul, surrendering to our present circumstances. That’s not to say that circumstances and conditions don’t change — they do. But it’s our spirit, our core that carries us through life’s bumps, challenges and heartaches.

Robert’s message made me think of a powerful story or legend circulating through the Internet about celebrated Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman.

It is rumored that on Nov. 18, 1985, at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, he played a symphonic work with only three strings “with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before” — a feat nearly impossible with just three strings.

The story continues that when he finished, “he said — not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone — ‘You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.’”

Isn’t that the task of each person regardless of age, circumstance or talent? To do so, reveals the essence of life and captures its spirit, its beauty and reminds others of theirs.

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach, arts writer and author. Through coaching and writing, she motivates people to use their talents and market their creative projects. For more information, click here, e-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.845.3036.

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