Advent 10: Flying takes Two Wings

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My pastor Sharon talked about joy this morning, and she showed this clip. Aleksander Gamme is a Norwegian adventurer and explorer, and the first to complete an unsupported trip to the South Pole and back. On the way in, he hid supplies and snacks in snow-covered caches. He purposely did not keep track of what he left so it would be a surprise.

On day 86 of his 87-day trek, he comes upon his last cache and expects to find the annoying practical things he’s found in the other ones—batteries, water purifying equipment. Instead, he finds Cheez Doodles, candy, and cheese, and he goes crazy with happiness. I barely ever click on links to videos, but do yourself a favor and click on this one. It might make your day.

There is the obvious takeaway here, which is, “Could I be the kind of person to go ecstatically crazy over a such a small thing?” It’s a reminder to us in our world of diminishing returns when we get antsy for the Netflix show to load or throw food out because it’s not exactly what we feel like eating.

Beyond that, though, my question is, “Am I up for the highs and the lows?” Gamme’s joy is largely due to the fact that he’s been living in deprivation—snow, sleet, cold, just enough calories. Because he’s been exposing himself to the elements, really pushing the limits of his humanity, all it takes is a bag of chips for him to soar to the heights. His happiness is in direct proportion to his discomfort.

I’m not arguing for masochism here, but if your life is anything like mine, it’s organized around comfort and security. Everything from the temperature of the house to deeper things like avoiding negative emotions. We avoid these in all sorts of ways, numbing ourselves through food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, image management, unhealthy relationships, even good things like exercise or spirituality. When we do that, we might be avoiding pain, but we’re also missing out on the Cheez Doodle dance! The tidal, total freedom of losing ourselves in the wonder of life, whooping with delight. I wish that for me, I wish that for you, whatever storms are brewing or behind us. Suffering and joy are wings of the same bird—without both of them, we can’t fly.

(P.S. The photo is from my time at Grace Cathedral in SF a few days ago. It’s an art installation of hundreds of paper birds suspended above the sanctuary. I caught it at the exact moment the sun was coming over the hill. A Cheez Doodle moment, for sure.)