Meanwhile, Time Passes

Another week wanes. June is sneaking through the back door. Nearly one-half of this year has slipped through the net. We can’t catch time. We can only immerse ourselves in it, and flow along.

There’s no news about Sophie. I called yesterday and today and was told the report hadn’t come in yet. Drat. Now I have to wait until Tuesday to find out if this is benign. Her belly is healing up nicely, and she’s back to her regular quirky, perky behavior.

This evening I’ve tended to job tasks — setting up final tests for our students. I also tinkered with my art page, neatening the photo edges and adding borders. It looks pretty nice, I think.

I’ve been devouring books lately. I have a voracious appetite, and perhaps a bit of a compulsion to remain absorbed in words, a story. Lately I’m reading mostly memoir, biography, or fiction, though soon I plan to start Peter Kramer’s recent book.

Meanwhile, we have our good days and bad days. I’m not speaking only of the “royal we,” but of we who reside in the household. Grief has made us fragile. A small tension can jolt our equilibrium. I’m irascible; my edges protrude, I’m angry about certain things (sometimes I’m just angry but don’t know why), and I’m finding little compassion within. We don’t have much to spare for ourselves, for each other, or for the needs of other members of our tribe.

Still, I read the following with interest, and was heartened:

Compassion has been advocated by all the great faiths because it has been found to be the safest and surest means of attaining enlightenment. It dethrones the ego from the center of our lives and puts others there, breaking down the carapace of selfishness that holds us back from an experience of the sacred. And it gives us ecstasy, broadening our perspectives and giving us a larger, enhanced vision. As a very early Buddhist poem puts it: “May our loving thoughts fill the whole world; above, below, across — without limit; a boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity.” We are liberated from personal likes and dislikes that limit our vision, and are able to go beyond ourselves.

This insight is not confined to Buddhism, however. The late Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel once said that when we put ourselves at the opposite pole of ego, we are in a place where God is. The Golden Rule requires that every time we are tempted to say or do something unpleasant about a rival, an annoying colleague, or a country with which we are at war, we should ask ourselves how we should like this said of or done to ourselves, and refrain. In that moment we would transcend the frightened egotism that often needs to wound or destroy others in order to shore up the sense of ourselves. If we lived in such a way on a daily, hourly basis, we would not only have no time to worry overmuch about whether there was a personal god “out there”; we would achieve constant ecstasy, because we would be ceaselessly going beyond ourselves, our selfishness and greed.

–Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness

There is someone in my life for whom I am struggling to find compassion. And, while I may write thoughtfully on this blog and provide numerous illuminating quotes, I remain hobbled by my own ego and selfishness. Posting this material here is my praxis. Surely with enough repetition, I will heal and re-shape my response to the world, and to this person.

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