This week, news headlines hurtled loss to the forefront of our consciousness. A plane crashed, and 229 human beings vanished in the flicker of an eye. They're gone; we're left with the wreckage and a hollow feeling.
There will be a lot of searching for someone or something to blame; there always is. This process is more or less a distraction, though; the fact is we humans look for causes because it's too uncomfortable to just look head-on at the fragility of human life and human endeavor. We're anguished over the speed and suddenness of the vanishing -- and rather than absorbing it, taking it in, weeping and letting it go --we spend a while getting hot and angry over the injustice of unexpected loss. And look for a target to blame.
But the appearance of loss is part of our adventure, part of the life curriculum. Like it or not, it's here. We can't eliminate it or shoo it away with shouts of injustice. Loss comes in all kinds of different packaging, but take away the wrapping and you're left with the same old goods: our fear of vulnerabiity.
As discrete physical beings, we are vulnerable, no question about it. But, as many of us have come to observe, material perceptions are not the whole story; in fact, they're not even the main part of the story. To grasp the entire picture, we have to dig further, into the deep spiritual self.at our core. At that level, the broad span of life has a gentler hue; and events which normally seem irrational and horrific begin to take on a different light.
For instance, when I was three, my mother died by her own hand. Needless to say, this was a blinding tragedy for the entire family; each one of us felt abandoned, betrayed, bereft, angry, bewildered, disconnected. Some of us were spun out from this loss for years. All of us ended up slightly tilted by it: the early trauma, the first black lesson.
But years later, here's what I notice. Both my brothers and myself (children of calamity) ended up with a deep and irrevocable empathy for those who are suffering. Where did this quality come from? It came from having suffered and survived. So in a very curious way, our dark beginning contributed to our fiber; it shaped our steps; it heightened vision in our hearts. We developed compassion.
All I'm saying here is that truly we understand very little about what events mean, why they happen, or what their long-run consequences will be. And that being the case, it seems to me it pays to look at everything that occurs with a hugely open mind. A mind that is willing to watch tragedy spawn new streams of life or lead into unexpected bursts of sunlight.
That's all I'm saying.