All About Sadness
Politicians are not above the law, nor are astrologers above the planets, and I, like many others, was caught in the cosmic whirlpool of the eclipses and Mercury/Mar retrogrades. In a mix of inevitability and choices, I found myself wearing the grey garments of sadness in the aftermath of the toughest time of the year.
Yesterday was the worst. As I cuddled with a pillow. I heard my self say:
This roughly translates to: oh God when will this sadness walk away?
Maybe because I am in Tel Aviv and when I am here, I somehow always talk to myself in Hebrew. And then, in the sticky quicksand of sadness I contemplated about what it really means.
I am lucky to speak Hebrew. While it is an ancient language with deep philosophical roots, it does not have that many words. Maybe because, like a sleeping beauty, Hebrew was dormant for 2000 years, her vocabulary is rather poor compared to English or Spanish. This of course is not a bad thing and maybe the word poor is misleading. Since Hebrew has fewer words, more concepts and objects have a similar root or word to describe them; they are energetically connected and share the same archetype from the collective unconscious. It is as if the language itself is constantly using creative associations to get to the core of the meaning of life.
Sadness or sorrow is called in Hebrew Etzev. From the root ETzV. For example, in the bible, the source of the Hebrew language, we find in Proverb 22:10, “The blessing of the Lord, it makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” in Hebrew:
Is sadness only sorrow? Is it just a description of a state of lack of happiness? Or is there something deeper? I asked myself. Then I realized that in Hebrew, the word for anger and sadness share the same root. They drink from the same spring. From Genesis 34:7, “The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry.”
I grabbed another pillow to cuddle with as I realized that sadness and anger are connected. They are two side of the same coin, they come from the same emotional DNA. Anger and sadness are the same emotion, but flow in different directions. Like a two lane highway. Sad is the person who is angry at himself. Angry is the person who refuses to feel his own sadness. In many relationships you can find this dynamics. When in conflict, one person might express anger and the other sadness. The more angry one person gets the more sad the other. The more sad one gets the more angry the other. Sometimes we can get angry at ourselves for being sad or sad at ourselves for being angry. But I thought there might be even more that sadness can teach me about its nature.
I kidnapped another pillow to put between my knees and discovered that the Hebrew word for design (Etzuv), also shares the same root as anger and sadness. It made total sense. Emotions design us. Our lives are sculpted by our feelings. It is not happiness that design us, it is sadness, sorrow, anger. Our capacity to feel happiness depends on our ability to experience sadness. There is nothing bad in sadness. We have to experience it fully in order to know ourselves. Our primordial sadness, according to mystics, was our separation from the light, from the divine, the moment we were thrust into our mother’s womb and cut off from the source. That is the first sadness and will always be there, lurking in the shadows, until we die and reunite with oneness.
Sadness will not kill you, it will make you grow. It will bring forth creativity, design, poems, art, prose, and ultimately also love. Depression can kill you, yes, but not sadness. A good dose of sadness every so often, after a breakup, after bad news, after disappointment or after a fight with a friend, is healthy.
The word for nerve in Hebrew also shares the same root as sadness, anger and design. Messages, emotions, information, and data flows through the neurons that are activated by a pulse. Sadness and anger activate us, force us to move, to emote, to shift and redesign ourselves as well as our lives.
In Kabbalah, it is common to take a word and find hidden messages in the letters or its root. the word for sadness, Etzev, is made of three letters, like most roots in Hebrew. Ain, Ztadik, Beit.
The letter Ain, means an eye in Hebrew. Sadness comes when you open your eyes and discover something that might have been hidden. You received an insight, something your repressed came out into the light. The second letters, Tzadik, means a saint. Compassion and altruism that are attributes of saints come when you are able to feel other people’s pain and sadness. The last letter, Beit, means home. Sadness finally leads you back home, to your true self. And there it finally passes away burns in the warm hearth. When you find your home, when you get a moment of oneness, when you are back to the feeling of being at one with the divine, that is when sadness dissolves. Sadness only passes when you finally manage to experience a moment of connectedness. It can happen through a union with a person, a loved one, or through art, meditation, dance, yoga, a run, or whatever helps you tap into oneness.
The first two letters of the word sadness is the word Etz, which means in Hebrew tree. Sadness is the foundation of the tree of life. The tree, like sadness, grows out of the darkness of the deep earth while its branches strive upwards towards the sun and the light. The deeper you go the higher you can reach. The last two letters of the words sadness, anger, design, and nerve is Tzav, which means turtle. Yes, sadness finally walks away, but in the speed of a turtle’s stride. Slow, very slow, but it does go away…
So finally, after a cuddle with three pillows and a duvet, I saw the turtle walking slowly, with all the time in the world, stopping to eat a blade of grass, to sun-bath, and look around, and continue his march of sadness around the tree towards home…