Here's a powerful poem by Rob Brezny that is so appropriate to the times we are in right now.
My commentary on this poem is below the video. Click on the video to hear it.
Why I Relate So Much to "Painful Blessings"
When one first hears the term “painful blessings” one may be confused, thinking, “how is this possible that blessings can come from pain?” Is not a blessing something positive?” This is true, but upon examining my life and the lives of some others, I see it is often the case that something considered negative can produce something positive.
I knew a woman who was in two physically abusive relationships. She had the courage to leave these relationships and through counselling and coaching, regained her strength and self-esteem. She now helps other women exit from similar relationships.
I knew a man who after a failed marriage and business ended up on the street addicted to opioids and just about died. With a lot help through municipal social programs and counselling, he was able to recover and go back to college and is now working as an addiction’s counsellor.
These are examples of how a terrible suffering, when overcome, can become a mission in a person’s life. Not only is the suffering a blessing to oneself, but it is also a blessing to others who are experiencing a similar pain. It can turn into a deep calling, which gives meaning and purpose to life that previously lacked these.
The poem also refers to the concept of “waking up” which he suggests is a turnaround in a person’s life, when the person painfully sees the “illusion” of their path and actions in life. They see the stark destructive reality of the way their life actually is and decide to turn things around and move in a positive direction.
He applies this individual phenomenon of “waking-up” to us collectively, suggesting that we are waking up to the painful reality of “the masters of illusion and destruction…and their wars and tortures, their devils and borders, extinctions of species and brand-new diseases…”
When we look to the world it is not very hard to see what he is addressing. We have decades of examples:
- The tobacco industry denying cancer and heart disease caused by cigarette smoking
- The Catholic Church hiding the sexual abuse of young children by celibate priests
- The oil Industry knowing for 20 years its contribution to climate change of the burning of fossil fuels and actively denying it
- The financial industry selling sub-prime mortgages knowing full well they were unsound
- The pharmaceutical companies promoting the use of opiate drugs like oxycontin completely cognizant of their high addictiveness
- The agriculture industry (GMO) promoting the use of glyphosate on GMO plants and hiding their research of its cancer causing effects
- Mining companies burying toxic mercury on or close to indigenous reserves and not disclosing this.
I am sure you can find many other examples of this. It is very clear that we have been lied to for many years by these big organizations and corporations. The poet refers to them as “well-dressed monsters”, in other words individuals or corporations that look respectable but in fact are predatory.
The New Corporations
This aspect of these corporations is being starkly revealed in the New York Times best seller book “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas and the recent documentary called “The New Corporation” that exposes the new strategy of the super-rich to rebrand themselves as good Samaritans, solving the world problems (which they in their business practices have created) all the while secretly accumulating more and more wealth and power.
The bad news is the painful recognition that the rich continue to get richer and the poor get poorer. The reality is the main purpose is of a corporation is to make a profit, even if it means harming others, killing species and harming the planet.
Some may say that we should not be blaming these individuals. Partly the problem may be that we may not understand what blame really is. The dictionary defines blame as: “to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong”. So, using this definition, in the case of sexual abuse by a priest, who is to blame if a priest convinces parents that their daughter should be sent to him for religious education and then he sexually abuses her. Blame in this case, is fully on the priest.
However, if the daughter told her parents what was happening, and they kept sending her to the priest they would be colluding in this deception and they would be partly responsible. So, the difference here is one of awareness.
If a person is told by a pharmaceutical company that an opiate is non-addictive and the company knows it is addictive and the person gets addicted and commits suicide, I would suggest the pharmaceutical company is to be held responsible or blameworthy.
And this is an example of a “Painful Blessing” that has actually occurred, where “key players in the nations opioid industry contributed over 65 million dollars since 1997” to non-profits to advocate the use of opioids even as the toll of addictions to the drug, grew. (Kitchener/Waterloo Record Dec 16, B3)
So, as we venture forth into the new year, there may be more and more painful recognitions that may be hard to see, acknowledging with unbelievable surprise the secretive tactics that certain “philanthro-capitalists” have been engaged in and the extent to which they have inflicted pain on others to accumulate more wealth and power.
The Power to Change the World
The good news according to the poet is that we are waking up to this, seeing beyond the “veil” of illusion and acknowledging that we have the power to change the world.
He suggests that this power, is more than physical, it could be a spiritual power, that is, a universal power of life and love, not based on self-interest like the “well-dressed monsters” but based on freedom, compassion, and justice. This power is even more profound when we embrace the perspective of “Pronoia” which to him means that “life is a conspiracy to liberate you from ignorance”.
In spite of the fact that there has been great suffering, we can use the suffering to wake up to what has caused our pain, gain wisdom and from that wisdom work towards creating the kind of world we want. It is a positive approach, akin to what an elderly friend once told me. “There’s nothing so bad it ain’t good for something”
We are seeing this now in the world with the death of George Floyd stimulating the Black Lives Matter movement, the election of politicians in the US promoting a fair minimum wage and the Green New Deal.
I love this poem because I see some of the pain I have personally experienced is now the source of great wisdom and I now see the concept of “Painful Blessings” occurring in the world.
This may not be the time of Revelations as described in the bible, but it may be the time of the great “Revealing”. Gloria Steinem once said “Know ye the truth and the truth will set you free, but first of all it will really piss you off”.
I see this as the challenge right now.
It is the challenge of being open to investigating and seeing what is really going on in the world, sorting truth from fiction, taking positive optimistic action, and avoiding being too consumed with anger while staying in touch with the love that life has for us and we have for it.
We can turn around and create a brand-new world.