There comes a time it seems, somewhere after the heart is ripped out when all we want to do is laugh again. The weight of it all is too much to hold on one’s own and we just wish to have a life that is free of heartache and pain. Free of the burden of the energy it takes to rise up from the weight of the rubble. I can hardly write a post about tragedy anymore. It’s like walking to the edge of the abyss and still deciding where it is I want to be after I’ve already calmed the vertigo and stepped back, closer to safety.
But then, there is another story. Another mother, standing and gazing over that same cliff, wondering what the fuck just happened and whether or not in a moment, if she could jump, just to ease the pain of standing there.
A woman said to me, “But I would never want to burden and infringe upon others with my journey”. In sharing our stories, ‘do we not draw closer, find each other and feel’? In a world plagued with habitual numbness, is this not exactly what it means to be alive? Walking a mile in someone’s shoes? Standing at the edge of their terror? Learning compassion, insight, humility and vowing to transform our own lives into something better? Every journey is an adventure but some journeys are wrought with pain. Perhaps the stories worth sharing are the ones that cut the deepest and explore the suffering that illuminates what it means to be alive.
The other day in Medicine Hat, it was minus 40 degrees celsius, which in fact could have been one of the coldest cities upon the planet. A bearded man has a place upon the street where he sits with a cardboard sign. In passing, I read the black lettering that asked, “Do you know why they call me the Prophet?” As the spare change in his cup rattled, he asked me another question. “Hey, lady. What is the worth of the life of a man?” He asked me like I might not know and with the gesture of his cup, I couldn’t help but feel that whatever I had in my pocket might somehow define the worth of this man, sitting on a street corner, within a conservative little city, somewhere beneath a blanket of snow and icy winds.
Do you ever wonder about those people? The ones that we pass by, with barely a second glance, stepping over outstretched legs on our hurried way to somewhere else.
These moments reminded me of another place. In Kathmandu, Nepal, one often sees people like these men, sitting upon street corners and occasionally on a rolling platform, propelled by a stick, a wooden block and the power of the arms. “Namaste, Madam”, he said to me with hands pressed together. “Namaste”, I said, returning his smile. I thought about him many times through the years and I often wondered about his thoughts of a Canadian woman with a baby on her back, who only stopped with pleasantries and a smile.
It was ten years later when we would meet again and still, I would not recognize the message and meaning behind our encounters. But this time, I chose, instead to sit with him at the curbside and share a couple of coffees and precious time. With the security guard of the neighboring bank acting as a translator, I learned that even a legless beggar rises up, moves forward and works to be alive. Somewhere within the filthy streets, chaotic traffic, sacred cows and the wanderers of the earth, my new friend managed to put three children through University.
I guess that I am also afflicted by lust of the wanderer. Currently, I step in and out of the conscious awareness of what just happened in my Life. It is only now within my memories do I see him as a messenger. A man without legs and prayer hands held together, gently telling me that the “spirit within him honors the spirit within me”. A man without legs reminds me that I must rise up and stand again despite the absence in my life. Not the absence of limbs but a heart that has been cut out, still beating but not part of the body.
When I turn up the road, the same sickness in the belly can be conjured quicker than it takes to blink the eyes. Flashing lights. An unrecognizable car. A child screaming. Scrap metal still- billowing- with- smoke. Fragmented snapshots. An assault on the senses.
Do you know what it means to come undone? To be consumed by darkness? To lose the very light that shines from behind the eyes?
Be kind. We are in this together. Each one of us has a story.
One might have to ask the bearded man why they call him the Prophet, if it isn’t already clear. I’ve explored the questions and what has resonated most is the notion that the worth of a man could be summed by how much of his own life he is willing to give to help another. A sentimental father whom gives up his own freedom and fortune so his children can raise their children in a manner which he holds dear to his heart. A man who gives away his precious time and money to tend to an ill and grieving mother while he is grief stricken himself. A soldier willing to fight for our freedom, despite the threat of paying with his life.
What about the worth of the lives of our beautiful children, unsuspectingly fractured from this existence? Does not the absence of youthful vitality, laughter, innocence and dreams, paradoxically illuminate that which it means to be alive?
How could we possibly remain bitter and waste that which they have tragically lost? The sweetness of Life. The absolute sacrifice.
Let her fire ignite the spirit within.
“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” ― Pliny the Elder