Milky Way

Falling into a Bottomless Well of Compassion

December 2009

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Blog Posts

The Fragility of Being Human

In the last two posts, I’ve illustrated a method for “putting your question to the world,” developed by Robert Moss, that my partner and I took with us on my birthday trip to Eureka Springs. My question was “How can I more effectively deal with those who feel threatened by my words, or my actions, or simply feel some need to oppose me for whatever reason?” I discussed the first half of the response from the world in my last post.

The other half of my message came to me toward the end of my time in Eureka Springs. With all the physical work that I had been doing lately – with my chain saw and various other chores around my ten-acre homestead, preparing for winter – my body was wracked by aches and pains, and I was looking forward to a weekend of indulgence in our little Jacuzzi suite. We both had a soak the night before, and massages late in the day on my birthday, and I was starting to feel more relaxed. Then suddenly, on the morning of the day after my birthday, I got up before dawn to pee, as I usually do, and then somehow managed to trip over my suitcase, and hit my ribs on a wooden bench that just happened to be there. After writhing in agony for about ten minutes, I spent the rest of my day clutching my chest and wincing every time I took a deep breath. As I write this, nearly a week later, I am still feeling sore and tender.

Again, as with my encounter with the friend who had no teeth, this seemed like something out of a dream that demanded symbolic consideration. Sitting with it for a few days, I started thinking about how fragile we are in these temporary bodies – held up by quite breakable bones; wrapped by skin that is easily cut and bruised; housing tender organs that can fail without warning; subject to invasion by strange viruses, rapidly moving objects, and environmental toxins. It is really a wonder that we make it as far through this world as we do, when the simple act of crossing a street at the wrong time, breathing the wrong air, drinking the wrong water, or falling down in the wrong set of circumstances can end the adventure.

Hazy With Smoke

On the other hand, it seems that falling down is an essential part of being human. There is no one among us – neither the most enlightened of spiritual warriors, nor the most despicable of violent takers – who will not at least once in their life, fall down and hurt themselves badly. In the end, we will all fall down and die.

Beyond the literal act of falling down and hurting ourselves physically, we also fall down in any number of other ways. We get laid off at work; we have a blowout fight with our partner, and end a relationship; our kids turn to drugs or get in trouble with the law, and we suffer a profound sense of failure as parents; a youthful dream languishes and eventually dies in the corner of a closet in our practical, mundane life of endless responsibilities and no time for ourselves. There are countless ways in which real life falls down, when measured up to our ideals, our fantasies, and our expectations.

This simple fact, as I see it, levels the playing field and turns any potential battlefield into an arena for the meeting of hearts and minds. As Rumi said:

Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
cloud cover thick, I try to stay
just above the surface, yet I’m already under
and living within the ocean.

Does sunset sometimes look like the sun’s coming up?
Do you know what a faithful love is like?

You’re crying, You say you’ve burned yourself,
But can you think of anyone who’s not
hazy with smoke?

The fact that we’ve all been burned, and that we’re all hazy with smoke – simply because we are fallible human beings, housed in horribly fragile bodies, struggling to get somewhere according to the pitiful plans of a vulnerable ego, somehow gives us common ground, if we can put aside our differences long enough to see it that way. This is not always easy, but it is, I think, a recipe for changing the world – especially where the potential exists for violence. It is – where it is possible – a step onto the path of equality through the Realm of Two that potentially leads to “creative synthesis, love, mutual respect, compassionate tolerance of differences, and a synergistic interaction in which the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.”

The next post in this series is Questing for Common Ground.

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