Sadness Harmonized   10 comments

Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.


We sang this mournful spiritual in church last week.  Loneliness is miserable, so why do I feel uplifted by this song?

Is there something in music or poetry or art that somehow ennobles or beautifies sadness?

Or is it the sharing of sorrow that salves the sting?

Perhaps it is getting outside of your experience to look on it with some level of detachment?

Or maybe it is the courage that is displayed by facing into the pain rather than running or hiding?

Why is the experience of a broken heart terrible, but the story of a broken heart strengthening?

**Please give me your thoughts**


Posted April 22, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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10 responses to “Sadness Harmonized

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  1. sometimes listening to sad songs (I prefer the Americana genre, ala Chris Knight, Jason Isbell, James McMurtry) can backfire too and make me sadder. I am often drawn into these songs by an idea in the music or lyrics and then listening more to the lyrics can make me sadder. is an example. It doesn’t always make me sad though and this is a brilliant song. But the idea that you can connect to someone through words in music isn’t surprising really.

    • R, reflecting on your words “isn’t surprising” makes me recognize that music and other forms of art and expression move us emotionally, so that connecting to our own and shared emotions of loss is much easier. It is so true that some expressions of loss make me even sadder. I sometimes ask my wife to change a radio channel for this reason. I also don’t watch “dark” shows or movies anymore for that reason, and they are much more common these days. If they are to touch me in a positive way, I need the author to create a sense of empathy with the tragic character. I don’t need a “positive” ending as most Americans want. In fact a contrived or trite or formulaic positive ending can be very disheartening to me because it suggests that we as an audience are so shallow that we can’t handle the truth (which of course means that those same folks need me to be “positive” as well to accept me). Thanks for sharing.

  2. Someone else naming my pain, showing me I am understood, not alone, encourages me and also lifts my eyes off myself. Seeing someone else’s pain had a higher purpose reminds me that God promises that mine does too.

    Thank you for opening yourself up to let others harmonize with your sadness. It is a gift.

  3. Yes, Anonymous touches on one of the most deeply human capacities. We are each of us alone in our own journey. But seeing someone else, hearing someone else on a similar journey – even at a distance – even though we don’t know their name – brings comfort and companionship. There is actually a wonderful online game based on this profound human characteristic:

    • It reminds me that our connections are deepest, truest, most binding when they come through our shared brokenness rather than our shared competencies.

      • That is so true. I learned that in a fresh way at a retreat recently, when at the end of the weekend I realized I loved the women in my group who were open and vulnerable about their pain and failure and felt little connection to the ones who, for whatever reason, maintained the appearance of wholeness.

  4. Also, I have found for me that making art out of pain transforms it into a strange dark beauty. And seeing, hearing, encountering the art of others that resonates with my pain also transforms it. And when I say “beauty” I do not mean “pretty” I mean the beauty of art that grasps the inner humanity with the terrible and the tragic and shows that to us. It is the transformational beauty of Edvard Munch’s painting of “the Scream”, of Käthe Kollwitz’s images of despair, desolation and death. Art and music like these can give a deep sense of connection to others who know our experience and create that sense of companionship along our solitary journey. And yes, like Anynymous I find that same resonance when you write. You create that dark beauty, that distant companionship. It is a gift.

    • Mardi, is this because it gives suffering some meaning and purpose (as inspiration to create something moving)? My first thought was that that seems a derived rather than an inherent meaning. In other words, we are taking something which in itself is not good and finding some way of using it beneficially. But since art is a form of self-expression and communication of the artist’s own suffering (in this emotional context), I can see that it really is inherent to the experience of suffering and not a step removed from it. I tend to see art as more detached or objective or independent than an artist is likely to see it (except in the case of music).

  5. I find that when I make art the processes of creating the work begin to open up things inside I was not consciously aware of. My art can become a pathway from the silent parts of myself to “speak” to the thinking conscious parts of myself. My art allows some parts of me to speak to other parts of me. And the work of other artists does the same for me. I may verbalize thoughts about the art – mine or others’ – but those words don’t actually encompass what it is I am thinking, hearing, seeing. But my mind knows what it is and there is a deep sense of comfort and sensing of being in balance, of feeling my footing under me even as I stand on the edge of the cliff and feel the wind whipping.

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