I actually started writing the following three paragraphs in the middle of the last posting that I wrote. However, I quickly realized that they did not belong there so, rather than delete them, I saved them as a draft. I figured that if the words had manifest themselves on the page they were important to come back to. Here are the three paragraphs as I wrote them.
As I have been sitting here, stopping from time time to just breath in deeply, I have been checking the news on my info page. I guess the biggest item that has rocked the world in different ways is still the news coming out of Haiti. I have followed this story, as I’m sure many millions of other people have, and have come to realize how difficult it is to take in the reality of such a situation.
No matter how many photos they print, and there have been hundreds, even though they depict the grim reality of the circumstances it is hard to make it a reality in my own life. Story after story carries an underlying sadness, pain, and desperation. It is heartbreaking to think of the level of suffering and helplessness that overwhelms the surviving Haitian population in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Yet even as I understand the meaning behind the words in these stories, and even as I can see clearly what is depicted in all the photos, there is a part of me that is unable to truly comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy. I went through something similar after the tsunami out in Thailand and Indonesia at Christmas a couple of years ago.
So now I will try to pick up the thread of my thought process a week after writing this. As I said, at the time I was sitting outside in my lanai on the first really warm day after much freezing cold weather had not allowed me to take my lap-top outside and work. I have just reread the three paragraphs and remember now sitting out there in the warmth and sunshine, catching up on world-wide news and feeling so strangely detached from the horrors taking place in Haiti.
I am not sure why this is so. I try to practice compassion in a very real way on a daily basis. I am a Christian person who “loves his neighbor”. I am also an intelligent person, so it’s not that I don’t have the brains or the smarts to grasp what is going on over there in Haiti. Neither am I afflicted by learning disabilities that slow my thought processes or skew them somehow.
I have read on numerous occasions that we, the human race, have been so saturated with violence in today’s world that events such as those taking place in Haiti don’t reach down into our hearts, our guts, or they only get halfway there. Modern media thinks nothing of throwing blood, gore, and downright evil at us in the name of “action movies” and the like, and as a result we become inured to the real life stuff.
As I said above, I see the pictures, I read the stories, the facts, but I have a hard time bringing it all into my own perception of reality. I’m not sure where I want to go with all this, or if I need to go anywhere in particular. Of one thing I am sure, the words presented themselves on the page out of my mind so they must have some specific significance.
I know that I do not feel very happy or comfortable about this posting. It has come out in fits and starts, between one interruption and another. Half way through I found myself thinking, “maybe I should just delete it and start a totally new posting”. But there is a part of me that knows the words need to stay on the page.
Perhaps the discomfort that I am feeling is because this article makes me look at a part of me that is not so nice. That part that wants me to just stay in my comfort zone and get on with my ordinary life. After all, don’t I deal with enough of my own pain without taking on the pain of others? But I know that I cannot do that. If I do, I will experience even more discomfort.
So the words stay, the article stands as is, and I battle on through the stuff that maybe I would prefer to ignore. I ask God to help me find the growth that this is leading me to. Hopefully there will be a quantum leap in my spiritual growth, in my prayer practice. Maybe a little more honesty, another small slice of humility, and just a smidgen more courage to keep me on track.
No, I’m not going to do an Albert Einstein. I do not have that kind of analytical and scientific mind. But it struck me that any given situation will probably be viewed differently by each person involved in it. I just have to think about any normal, every day conversation between myself and my husband and how we sometimes struggle to understand exactly what the other is saying – and we’re both speaking English, and are relatively on the same page!
Just recently I read a phrase that really caught my attention. It said something like, “A mistake is just another way of doing something.” Yesterday I read another phrase which said, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.” And they both carry the same message as the old proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
I remember participating in a workshop some years ago. There were various projects and activities that we engaged in during the course of the workshop. One that I will always remember went something like this. We re-entered the classroom after a short break and in the middle of the chalk board was the word “track”.
The instructor asked us to just focus on that one word. Then she asked us not to talk among ourselves and to write a sentence using that word. As I recall, there were about twenty to twenty five of us in the class. There may have been a handful of sentences written that were similar. The rest were completely unique, each offering a different meaning and use of the word.
I’m sure that this creates problems from time to time. Going back to my husband and I, I can think of a few times when the discussion has become somewhat heated simply because of two completely different perspectives, understandings of, one word or phrase. (We’re probably not a good example because I’m British and he’s American, so the language barrier in and of itself sometimes is a bit of a beast!!!)
But different perspectives can also bring wonderful variety to our lives. Just think of art and architecture, and what about music? All the unique styles created by different people enrich our lives in all those areas. I absolutely love Modigliani and Monet and yet they create works at opposite ends of the spectrum. As do Degas and Dali and yet both have produced works of exquisite beauty.
I cannot imagine life without the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But there are days when all I want to hear is Dvorak or Beethoven. And when I’m in the mood, please get my toes a-tapping with some down-to-earth, boot-stomping Blue Grass.
On the news yesterday and today are the heart-wrenching stories and pictures from Samoa and Indonesia. People’s lives torn apart, wrecked by savage tsunami’s and earthquakes, forces of nature over which we have no control. Any “small stuff” problems that I may have been lamenting about dwindle into nothingness by comparison.
Probably the biggest example of perspective that I can remember in my own life happened back in the mid seventies. I was living in Sardinia at the time. It was a gorgeous, warm, clear August evening and the sky was littered with millions of stars forming the Milky Way. I remember standing on the patio of my little cottage and getting a cricked neck from staring upwards.
Then I had an idea. There was a six-foot long wooden picnic table on the patio which I covered with a sleeping bag. Then I lay on top and in wonderful comfort began to star gaze. It was an incredible experience. It looked as though someone had taken a dozen sacks full of diamonds and thrown them across the width and breadth of the sky.
It was only then, at the ripe old age of thirty something, that I began to get a clear idea of what the universe was about. As I lay on that picnic table I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just a flat dark blue background with “big stars, and little stars” painted all over it. I understood for the first time the significance of the word “infinity”.
I became aware that the “little stars’ were in fact probably just as “big” as the others seemed to me, but that they were further away and thus seemed “smaller”. And I also realized that if I squinted I could just barely see even “smaller” stars that were even further away. And in that one moment the full magnitude of “the universe” hit me.
In that one moment I was both terrified and also in total awe, and I realized just how insignificant I really was in the bigger scheme of things. And yet I also realized just how important I must be to my God that He has chosen to place me here in the bigger scheme of things.