My friend and mentor Jules and I had once argued over the definition of Crisis. In her work as a counselor of a crisis hotline, Crisis has a common story; these are major life problems that plague many people which often reveal tragic losses and unbearable grief, which often trigger people to contemplate suicide. I agree on this idea of crisis since it is the most normal definition of the word. But, in the lens of Love, crisis is no more an event of extremes.
The word “crisis”, at least in its most popularized definition, has also been argued as misleading. Many authors defined crisis as two Chinese characters which respectively represent the words danger and opportunity. Later, some scholars were alarmed by this definition, as the character that represents “opportunity” is a neutral one, not the usual positive sense. If we look closer, we can see the extremes in this common definition, and perhaps explains why we often miss Crisis’ powerful but hidden meaning.
A word insight came upon me when Jules and I were talking about Crisis. Inspired by the Christian tradition, and I know that the whole Christianity will agree, that a Crisis can also be read as “Christ is.” Crisis appears to be a reminder of transcendence of Christ from the extremes of suffering, an inspiration that helps most Christians to see that life problems are bearable enough in the light of following Christ’s way. But while Christians and I agree, I have to find something more universal for all people of different faiths and sacred traditions. There has to be one insight that brings an all-encompassing meaning for humanity.
Love is the infinite nature of everyone and everything. As our perceptions are cleansed, the infinite nature of Love reveals.
A few days before my lecture on Crisis, I was deeply struck by a new word insight. The word divided itself into two syllables: CRY+ SEES. Crying and Seeing are two undeniable wisdom of Crisis. They always take place in a very precise order.
Crying is the first stage, an encounter with danger. In the moment of crisis, we all echo a universal response, which is to cry. We pour forth our grief and pain when a certain situation becomes a trigger for loss and discontinuity. There is always suffering. And there are questions being asked. And the pain is the portal to a new dimension. Just as the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran muses, “Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding,” Crisis in its most pure and existential nature reminds us of this point of transition, an inevitable change that challenges the course of our lives and may lead us to the greater truth of ourselves. It is a form of ablution, or a universal ritual of cleansing using water. Human tears is clearly a form of water, akin to the taste of seawater. In almost all ancient myths, the sea or the ocean symbolizes the unknown and the mysterious. What washes our vision is the sacred waters of consciousness. From there, we begin to see.
Seeing is the second stage. After crying, our eyes begin to see. The eyes see not just externally but internally. A crisis awakens us into an enlightened awareness. Still, any Crisis could provide us either a blindfold or a clear lens. Most of us get blinded at first, for Crisis teaches us to stop looking only at the surface, but look closer and deeper to the events that shake our existence. There are many blind spots in the range of our limited human vision, and this is by nature is a human crisis, in which many things remain unknown to us. This mystery shakes us by our natural impulse to ask, and Crisis serves its new purpose. It becomes the lens that magnifies our vision: to make the unseen seen, to clear the unclear, to see the small much bigger, to reach the far much nearer. Our new awareness, our new way of seeing is now born.
In the wisdom of Crisis, we find resonance in the words of English poet William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” We often cry to cleanse our eyes and prepare us for seeing. Our difficulties, problems and sufferings, personal or collective, are all but steps of reengaging our attention to what really matters: Love. Love is the infinite nature of everyone and everything. As our perceptions are cleansed, the infinite nature of Love reveals. What is more promising is that in time we will be reversing the process of Crisis, because that is exactly what Love brings us: we are then seeing first, and cry in joy and happiness. Crisis, as a paradigm of Love, will never be the same again.