I love the tension in the very phrase. How can I be blessed (happy) and mourning at the same time. There are distinctions that help. First, happy here refers not to feeling in actuality (pleasure) at the moment of mourning, but to development or what I call taking shape. Pleasure is the proper effect of becoming happy, it is not equivalent to happiness. Happiness is the end goal of the steps being taken. If we view the end and the means to the end as parts of a whole, then mourners (one of the means) are happy (that which is at the end).
Blessed are those who mourn.
This logically next step follows the recognition of lack which is the poverty of spirit. I say that it follows logically and not temporally because one can hardly imagine seeing truly that one lacks having what it would be good to have without feeling the loss.
To mourn is to properly respond to loss or in this case lack. So, as I understand this step, it is wholly personal. One may of course extend the mourning to the lack out there in the world, but why would that be primary? If one wants to understand what is lacking in the world one should put oneself in good shape. This requires doing the work that restores the misshapen parts of oneself. Formally, this work requires a recognition of lack. Mourn that!
A second argument for the personal nature of the beatitude being primary. The part of the world that one has the most say over and thus the most chance of making better and increasing the better state of the world is oneself. There is no other part of the world to which one has more regular access, more control, and more insight. And if any other part of the world is to be made better by the spirit that resides here, any activity by that spirit will be infected by its original inadequacy. So, I implore he who gets to work to get to work first and foremost on his self. Logically, anything that emanates from this spirit making the world better will be improved by the local work done.
To mourn implies not merely intellectual appreciation but feeling. There is depth to the awareness of something to the degree that feeling gets involved. This is why there is sometimes a cheapness to thought, intention, speech that can involve hypocrisy or concealment of reality. To know a man’s thoughts the best you can do is watch him not ask him. His thoughts are best expressed in his life not his sounds. Feeling is a part of our materiality. For the poverty of spirit to become itself a progress on the way to blessedness it must be felt not merely thought. But this means really appreciating what is lost.
To mourn implies an appreciation of the weight or significance of what is lacking. Is what one is lacking significant? If not, it is not a part of the path to blessedness. We must be firm on this. The modern world is a world where we have proclaimed from hilltop to hilltop “All are ok, imperfect but ok”. Even in the later generations of proclaimed followers of the sage Jesus phrases like “just the way you are” can be misused as rallying cries for “everything is ok”. Everything being ok implies rest. The only reason for movement, for actin, for work, is that there is loss or lack that is significant. Here is what you can be sure of: according to the sage Jesus the path to happiness involves mourning. If you do not mourn, if you can see nothing worth mourning, then one of two things is true: first you have arrived. You are complete. Second, you are blind. I do not deny you the right to believe either. As for the second the sage Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.”
To mourn implies that there is loss. That means that there is a should-have-been which is not. Note that it is not lacking unless it should have been there. That is, in the mourning is the comparison of what is mourned now with what if present would have prevented the mourning. I say this to assert that one does not mourn what is not lost. And nothing is lost that was not originally possessed or at least what one had right to (possession comes in various forms. We will not digress). If there is lack in us that is worth mourning it implies that it was within grasp, that it was in some sense possessed. Maybe the deepest mourning is in the recognition of he who lost that which is lost.
The terror of the free spirit, he who could be if he only would choose, will keep you up at night. Identify him in yourself and he will immediately cry our excuses for his failure. “I didn’t know”, “I needed”, “I was desperate”, “It was his fault”, “It was society’s fault”–all the while the panting free spirit cannot escape its infinite responsibility for each moment, how it has been used by said spirit, and how each moment’s use has shaped the present lack.
I can only implore each of us to not flee the mourning. It is associated with pain. Mourning is not fun. But it is the laying to rest the old man that is in real repentance. It is the saying goodbye to the living with the lack while ignoring it and the second birth which is the living with the lack fully aware of it and feeling its significance. Though this moment is saturated in death and loss, and the mourning is real, it is the moment of birth. It is the moment when the seed that falls to the ground hard, dry and dead, is infused with the moisture that begins regeneration.