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Song and Message for those Alone or Bereft on Thanksgiving

Steven Goodheart Essays

Steven Goodheart Essays

As I do every year, I offer this song, “By Way of Sorrow,” to all those who may be alone this Thanksgiving, without family and friends—or maybe even without hope. Please don’t give up! There is a way “home.” The first step may be hope and trust in our own innate capacity to change, to grow, to evolve, to heal, to create a happy life from our heart’s deepest yearnings for home. There is a way to “love’s table.” Please listen, and then read on:

Click to play: “By Way of Sorrow”

The first step “home” can be trust in our own innate capacity to change. And change is possible through choice. As Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning,”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Even if we’ve been “taken by the wind,” even if we’ve known “the kiss of sorrow,” even if we are or have been an “outcast and a stranger,” each day, each moment, we can make what I like to call “the Frankl choice.” We can choose our own way, a new way—with the determination that by looking deeply into ourselves, into our lives, into our past actions, we can see how to make skillful choices that will lead to better present and future actions and results.

If the passing of time, misfortune, change, disease, and death, have left us alone and bereft, we are not helpless victims, doomed to live out our lives in loneliness and despair. Viktor Frankl proved that even in the most hellish circumstances, there are ways for us to express love, and goodness, and care for others.

But what if things seem hopeless? Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

There is always something we can do to change ourselves, which means there is always something we can do change our life for the better.

This is the deep and profound meaning of that overused and usually misunderstood word karma. Karma isn’t about fate; its about cause and effect, choices and the results of those choices. We are never locked into the past; our future is not predetermined. The beginning is now. Whether we are the victim of circumstances beyond our control, or if we are living out the results of unwise or wrong thoughts and actions from our past—and for most of us, it’s a combination of both—today, we can still start anew.  We can open the door to a new way of living.

In Buddhism, you always get a fresh start, a clean slate. In Buddhism, it’s always about right now, about right here, about this moment. You are not locked into sin or some inherently sinful nature, as some religions teach. Looking deeply in human nature, the Buddha saw that each one of us is a free moral agent who can choose to think and act differently. The good in us can be developed and expanded without limit. As my heart teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh would say, everything unwholesome in us can be transformed from “garbage” into “flowers.”

So, my dear reader, if this Thanksgiving is lonely and filled with sorrow, loss, and regret, that does not have to be the case come next November! Yes, life is hard, and we all suffer. Things are always changing. Things pass away. Nothing conditional in human life is permanent. Faced by this reality, we are challenged to change the one person we can change—ourselves. We may come to this bright realization “by way of sorrow,” but the path of self-awakening leads to joy and freedom that cannot be taken from us, and that is not dependent on anything, and in fact, is deathless.

Steve Goodheart

Lyrics to “By Way of Sorrow”

From the album Cry, Cry, Cry
(Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and Dar Williams)

You’ve been taken by the wind.
You have known the kiss of sorrow
Doors that would not take you in
Outcast and a stranger

You have come by way of sorrow
You have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny
Meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

You have drunk a bitter wine
With none to be your comfort
You who once were left behind
Will be welcome at love’s table

You have come by way of sorrow
You have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny
Meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

All the nights that joy has slept
Will awake to days of laughter
Gone the tears that you have wept
You’ll dance in freedom ever after

You have come by way of sorrow
You have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny
Meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

You have come by way of sorrow
You have come by way of tears
But you’ll reach your destiny
Meant to find you all these years
Meant to find you all these years

Click to play: “By Way of Sorrow”

Click to see the Cry, Cry, Cry album at iTunes.

♥♥♥

About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

6 Responses to “Song and Message for those Alone or Bereft on Thanksgiving”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful encouragement of hope!

  2. Thank you for your post and website of compassion and refuge.
    Thank you for the reminder that garbage can be transformed to flowers.
    May we all be free of suffering and be warmed by the gentleness of true love.

  3. I really live most of picture in your post
    Calm, peace and beautiful. Thanks

  4. Even though I’m with family this Thanksgiving Day, I’m still alone…so I find your message very comforting. It’s good anytime.

  5. Thank you for this lovely song and message. I’ve been listening to the song over and over again.

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