This was what I saw on the side of a Robson St. shop window. I had passed by this upscale beauty boutique 1000x since moving downtown Vancouver, but had I ever seen this frightening statistic? Would I have connected to it had I noticed it on another night?
We grow up with rules, with ideas of how we’re supposed to be and supplement our selves with these falsities, with words and images grown from shadows of ideas, without ever carnally knowing the ideas themselves.
I wanted to care, to care for, be cared for, and so moved toward the image of caring, and lost the capacity to feel its true essence growing more and more un-compassionate in the truth of it along the way.
It seems to me we have two modes of compassion. Compassion to disconnect, and compassion to connect and feel. While I have told myself I was seeking feeling, I saw tonight how I had been fooling myself as I wore the shield of a compassionate image, without the substance of connection underneath. Grappling as if for life with the false image, I tried to feel through the only active tools I knew, not feeling, and in doing so grew righteous at moments, grew tense in most, and though with the the best of intentions, slowly my conscience moved out of reach as I connected to it less and less. Instead I connected to the image of compassion that I had drawn for myself.
How on earth can I walk past 10 homeless people each day with little more than a nod over time, hoping they won’t look at me because it’s broken my heart to see their struggle? I’ve been too scared, too feeble, or too caught up in my life to stop and consider what my participation is in their struggle, but this fracture of seeing but not acting, of cutting off vs feeling is a mighty anesthetic, and a poison that kills our spirit and saps our life over time. It is FEELING the pain of their struggle as known through your own that creates the true beauty of life. It is seeing a sign, placed as strategic advertising and PR, and seeing past the beautiful products to the reality of the horror of a world where THREE TIMES EVERY MINUTE A CHILD DIES FROM UNCLEAN WATER. If we connect to that child, that family, that world that we have helped to create, the heartbreak is mighty, and human, and calls for action.
It’s a beautiful gift to be human, to feel and consider, to plan and dream, but with these gifts comes the beautiful burden of feeling the responsibility of life, of connection, and of a global community that is no longer just a fairy tale, but is a real part of our lives every day. We are connected and through that connection can make the choice to act, or to willingly abide, but whether we choose to look or not, we are a part of these realities.
I’m not suggesting that we all start digging wells, that form of aid has many follies though done with good intentions, but that we connect to the life around us, to the beauty and the pain and embrace what it’s like to be human. To feel for someone else we must feel for ourselves and acknowledge our own.
Let's give ourselves the space, and find within the strength to feel. From our connection to self, from the joy and the pain of being human we will see our path to change the world.
May we start with ourselves.