16 February 2008

Spinning the Thread


(Ghandi spinning 1942)

Compassion, a word we recognize more and more thanks to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is an aloof quality.

I am mesmerized by actors. There they go racing out of the gate, living to 'get inside' the character they must portray. So superficial. So fake. Or is it? Isn't a good actor able to link with the web of all those things that make us human?

But when compassion needs to be summoned in a flash in real life, how do we go about it?

Awkwardness is one of the most difficult things in life. Being afraid of saying the wrong thing, offering an inappropriate gesture, or merely the call to extend oneself in wordless human contact is something we all recoil from at some point.

Recognizing commonality in humanity is easy and, though subtle, can be captured in words - the human desire for recognition, the need for ritual, the insecurity of human interactions, the trepidation of things new, the various stages of fear in the face of change or death, and infinite longing for love.

The nuances of other less obvious transformations and stages, are not so easy to identify or discuss. Like an essay written on a subject for which you are unfamiliar, attempting to dive into a reality for which you lack empathy is sticky.

The link in both is experiential knowledge.

How to proceed?

This new space that mesmerizes with the desire to respond, and paralyzes with fears of our deepest self, is electric. Responding feels fraudulent, unless we identify with what it is that makes us - human, loving, caring.

Finding the common thread that links us all is simpler that we think - one need only reflect on a painful experience. When we reflect we don't see monsters, we see ourselves - a living being.

When we know our own suffering so well we can summons it and have the courage to, not only connect with it in an instant, but link to another human in their moment in need, we are practicing compassion.

So I say, we are foolish not to reflect on past trauma and revisit our storehouse of pain.

When we revisit the pain, we find it's not as remembered. A metamorphosis has occurred some time during the past and present. And while no one dare attempt 'measure' the infinite expanse of pain in another, it strikes us all indiscriminately and in a infinite variety of ways.

I believe in the act of revisiting our own pain an invaluable alchemy to the benefit of humanity transpires:

Revisiting pain, we discover a treasure trove of experiential knowledge, wisdom, understanding, self forgiveness - compassion.

In the act of revisiting, we spin a gossamer thread, like a map, that links ourselves to ourselves and, to others.

When we recognize suffering in another human being, we weave our thread into the web of humanity.

Some have said that an actual gossamer - astral plane - thread does indeed exist, connecting humanity with the divine. Well then, that would locate the divine right smack inside each one of us.


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