Broken Arms & Compassion

Here s a Journal entry from Saturday, April 30, 2006: I remember as a young boy, in Smiths Falls, Ontario, watching another boy about my age climbing a tree next to a large field. Behind the tree, on the edge of a small bluff, stood a bagpiper playing a mournful dirge on his pipes, dressed in kilt and all, while the sun set. The scene is so beautiful and surreal, that it has an almost dream-like feel to it, but I know it really happened. As I was watching the boy climb the tree, I saw him slip and fall to the ground. I heard a snap. His arm broke, with a bone actually protruding out of the flesh of his forearm. In extreme pain, the boy banged on the door of a house near the tree. When the woman opened the door, she was so visibly filled with disgust and horror, that she slammed the door in the boy s face. The bagpiper finally noticed what was happening and intervened. She was unable to help the boy, not because she was mean or indifferent or cruel, but because she was so terrified by the visible wound and pain. She was unable to show compassion, which means she was unable to enter into his suffering with him (com= with; passion= suffering). Which leads me to conclude that often it isn t because we are cruel, but because we are afraid of the tangibility and reality of suffering, that we are unable to bear it in others. Therefore, we distance ourselves from pain in others. Basically, at the core, we are afraid of our own vulnerability, susceptibility to suffering, and further, we are terrified of our own mortality and death. So the key is for each of us is to overcome our own fear of death. That is the ruling master and lord over our lives until we fight it and vanquish it. The solution isn t to try to drum up a feeling of compassion, but to eliminate the fear of death. True love casts out fear. Fear and love cannot cohabitate.

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