Giri

November 9, 2004

My father tells me that the Japanese word ‘giri’ means sacred duty, that ‘death is lighter than a feather, but giri is heavier than a mountain.’ That resonates with me. How often does a bottle of pills seem the best and only solution? Admit it; you’ve thought it too, to our shame. But understanding giri puts that death wish in perspective. Death is easy compared to the herculean task of carrying a sacred duty.

Christ says his yoke is easy and his burden light, but he doesn’t say it weighs nothing. Think of holding something in your hand. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but if you hold it for fifteen minutes or fifteen days or fifteen years, suddenly the perspective changes. That is not to say that it is not worth carrying. We simply must acknowledge that it is hard.

Father Flanagan and his boys from BoysTown bear the motto, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.” While I applaud the sentiment (I cry just as much as the next guy at Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney), I find it fatuous at best. He is heavy, Father, darn heavy. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop carrying him.

I just want to able to admit that carrying my giri-mountain or my brother is hard work. I don’t even care really if you don’t acknowledge it or believe it or even (probably) don’t care. Just me knowing it’s hard might make it a little easier to carry it and carry on. And it comes to mind that God knows my frame and remembers I’m dust. I bet he knows it’s hard too.

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