Radical Joy Revealed
February 3, 2016
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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places. We hope you'll enjoy these doorways into places that are both familiar and surprising, and we welcome your suggestions, stories, and photos. Click here to subscribe. 

Philoctetes in pain
Philoctetes by James Barry (1741-1806), etching and aquatint
Greek myth tells the story of Philoctetes, a fighter who had inherited the magical bow and arrow of Heracles. During a battle in the Trojan War, Philoctetes, who was by then an old man, received a wound in his foot that would not heal. In pain he lay alone on the island of Lemnos. Knowing that the old man still had possession of the magic bow and arrow, however, a group of younger men plotted to surprise him and steal the treasures.
 
The men drew lots, and the youngest was assigned the task of sailing to the island by night, approaching Philoctectes, and stealing the goods. As he approached it was all he could do to go forward, so repellant was the odor of the infection. Just as he was about to reach out and grab the bow and arrow, however, the moon slipped out from behind the clouds and lit Philoctetes' face. So moved was the young man that by the pain of the other that, instead of swiping the prize and fleeing, he stayed behind. He cleaned the wound, bound it, and cared for Philoctetes until he had healed enough for the young man to carry him to Troy, where he could be treated by the famed healer Aesculapius.
 
This story holds a lesson for those of us who seek ways of living with wounded places (inner and outer) that disturb us. If we are willing to look deeply at what may at first repel us, we're likely to find something vulnerable, innocent, and brave that deeply stirs our sense of compassion. And if we stick around and take even small steps to tend what is sick, broken, and unpleasant, we have a chance to heal not only the other, but ourselves as well.

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Radical Joy for Hard Times is a global community of people dedicated to finding and making beauty in wounded places. Reconnecting with these places, sharing our stories of loss, and making acts of beauty there, we transform the land, reconnect people and the places that nourish them, and empower ourselves to make a difference in the way we live on Earth. 
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