I recently heard Bill Plotkin say, “Traditions that don’t want us to grow make hell a bad place.” He wasn’t trashing religion, on the contrary, he was inviting us to think about the value of those hard times that come in our life.
What is hell then? Certainly we can say it is a place we don’t want to go and that if we go, we go kicking and screaming. It is that word we use for those dark, unknown times of suffering and challenge. It is also the word we might use for those less than loveable parts of ourselves.
In our culture, it is so easy to be captured by the belief that things can always be on the upside. It is, after all, part of the American Dream to believe in a perfect life without suffering. But alas, life does not come to any of us that way. And we do not come to ourselves that way.
All traditions remind us that the unknown is where the treasures are buried; it is where we will find the rest of us. And it is the only place we can emerge from as a deeper, wiser, humbler, more compassionate human being. The treasures are buried in the place we spend most of our lives avoiding.