Friday, July 29, 2005

Compassion

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I shot this on our last trip to the Getty museum in LA. It's not a good photo, but it seemed like a good point to leap off from in discussing compassion. I know watching the nun and her charge that I felt a great upwelling of pity and compassion, for both of them. I watched the nun cut a piece of fruit and feed it to the girl in the wheelchair. Every few bites she'd take one herself, so the two of them could share the experience, I suppose. Or she was hungry too.

I imagine both lives as incredibly circumscribed and incredibly bountiful. The nun has chosen her path of austerity, chastity, and service, love of the lord spurring her to turning her whole life into one ongoing act of self-denial and spiritual grunt work. The girl in the chair obviously did not conciously choose her cross. Her suffering is imposed on some level. I don't want to minimize her suffering or 'steal' it for the purpose of some pat spiritual lesson or musing: I worked intimately with handicapped and mentally ill people for years, both in hospital and residential settings, and I am under no illusions about the quality of their lives. But. I wonder if, in some cases, there is not a spiritual 'endowment' that comes with this great suffering, some ramping up of the inner life to compensate, in some measure, for the awful external loss?

Okay, maybe. Maybe not.

But how about on the level of simple intimacy? The act of another human hand putting food into your mouth? The most primitive and primal expression of love, of compassion... surely this must strike a chord of comfort at the very least, must communicate on a cellular level that there does exist some force in the terrible world that loves you, even the stricken and malformed, even the least one.

I just want us all to know a moment of peace, no matter how bitter the world we find ourselves in. And these two, for a few moments on a busy day in a glorious place, fed each other and my dream of a world where compassion finds a way.

8 Comments:

Blogger jitney said...

after my first heart attack, my daughter sat on the hosp bed and fed me breakfast. it was such an intimate, loving moment that i wept openly from the sheer joy i was experiencing. i'm sure there were other factors at work just then, but it is still one of the nicest memories i have.

6:06 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...

Ah, Jim.

You've done me in here.


yrs-

Scott

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, you make me cry.

After my father's open heart surgery which preceded his death by three years, which utlimately, and ironically in an impossibly small way was the cause of his death, I recall standing at the end of his bed and staring at the thin red line on his chest while a woman my age or slightly older sat on her father's bed talking animatedly and intimately with him in a sweet Texas twang. She called him daddy. I wanted to be her. I wanted to sit on my father's bed and not feel like that position was too intimate, that I'd crossed a line, that I was too close.

I am a failed daughter. I failed my father while he was alive, and while he was dying. I failed my mother after my father died, avoiding her because I couldn't stand to be around her after he was gone--they were that entwined in my mind, that much of a couple.

Jim, you make cry. Your daughter makes me cry harder.

7:05 PM  
Blogger jitney said...

the biggest lesson we have to learn is to forgive ourselves. we waste so much of our lives beating up on this soul that joined us at birth, already wounded and blind to the future, stumbling toward recognition and love and understanding without the slightest knowledge of how to get there. do you think your mother and father didn't have thoughts similar to yours? Of course they did. we're all of us alone, laurel. and no one can do for us what really needs to be done ...to abandon the accuser in us and open ourselves to love. it has taken me 69 years to learn this one small lesson. i pray you will absorb it and take it to heart long before i did, and that you'll take all those remaining years to celebrate laurel, not be forever chastising her and slapping her around. j

7:25 AM  
Blogger 21k said...

aside from your commentary on the photo, which really touches close, the photo itself I think really is terrific

8:06 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...

Jim-

Yes, yes. Laurel, yes. Take what he's telling you to heart.
Love yrself. Give yrself a bite of a peach, sit on the side of your own bed.

Soothe your self.




21k-

thnks for saying so. and stopping by.


yrs-

Scott

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, see? You're making me cry again.

I do try to forgive myself. It was the single hardest lesson I learned from suffering through the daily blugeoning of insults I received, that I bore alone and silently in high school. I forgave the people who didn't stand up for me. I forgave the people who spit on me, who spit that word on me: ugly. It's the single word in the english language that still causes me to wince, to shudder. But it took me years to understand that I had to forgive myself. For not standing up for myself. For not spitting back. For not opening my mouth and telling somebody, anybody how alone and angry and sad I was. I did, finally. But I still look upon who I was and how passively I accepted that ostracization with so much disgust that I have to turn my head. I can't meet that pathetic girl's eyes in the mirror.

Oh, Jim, Scott. You're like my father and my brother all wrapped up into a one. Or two, actually. (smile) (actually, you're more like my companions on the road to Oz. My tin man and my scarecrow.)

Thanks for saying what you say.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Paul Adrian M said...

Scott,

Been wanting to send you a photo of myself as a child, so you could make some great and creative collage with it, but i'm not sure if anything my face imprints itself on could be great, even at the hands of a master such as yourself.

This photo, the story along with it, are touching and moving and inspiring and at the same time, let me reflect on my current occupation as a residential counselor for the developmentally disabled. I help a man with limited physical faculty, eat his dinners, take his baths and dress in his clothes, and I am more probably than not the hardest man to find compassion in naturally, but I do work at it, and I do try to give and show it at every opportunity available to me.

In a workplace such as the one you enter day in day out, and the one mr. anders enters day in day out, it's easy to see how compassion might be losing the battle against malice and malcontent, however in the job I do, and the job I see others do, I am I guess on the battlefront where I see compassion winning out over misdeed and immoral consideration of others.

You will probably be famous one day for your wise words scott, and you too jim (who i see creeping around the smart conglomerate of blogs that has fragmented and broken off of what once was a fun to play in sandbox), and well, I just wanted to stick my big sicilian nose in to say i've learned alot from you both, and I appreciate and thank you for that.

best to you

paul

10:41 PM  

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