Stories and Compassion



Weariness is palpable. The divisions and mistrust in the world today seem to be growing, taking sides, with polarizing options, this or that, with no room for dialogue, no desire to listen, and no ability to see the nuance of the shared space between us all. It’s alarming. And it feels so fractured.


I was spinning while trying to make sense of it all.


I was thinking about this as I stared at a framed quote that hangs in my office:


If you see yourself in others,

then whom can you harm?

Dalai Lama


All I could think of is where had we gone wrong? When did we lose the ability to have an open and honest exchange, an actual discussion, without feeling threatened? When did we stop listening? When did we first let fear and anger dominate the shared space between us? How did we conclude that those that do not share our beliefs, convictions, or ideas are inherently wrong, different, or bad?


I was thinking about this as I read a meme sent to me by a very wise friend:


Everything is held together with stories.

That is all that is holding us together,

stories and compassion.

—Barry Lopez


Stories and compassion. A seemingly unlikely combination. Jairek Robbins defines 3 stories that we need to understand:

  • The story we tell ourselves about who we are.

  • The story we tell others about who we are.

  • The stories other people tell about us when we are not around.

Stories. Our stories. The stories we tell. The stories we tell others. The very stories that we change over time.


I was thinking about this as I finished writing The Company I Keep blog post:


In Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth, Sleeth recounts that the trajectory of her family’s life was forever changed when she asked two questions:


1. What is the biggest problem facing the world today?

2. What are we going to do about it?


I asked myself the very same questions.


The answer was a knowing that came from deep within. We stopped listening. We let the adage ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’ fall by the wayside. We are so busy telling our stories, so convinced of the truth of our own stories, that there is no need, no time, nor any space left to listen to the stories of anyone else. Our stories leave no room for understanding, let alone compassion.


I was thinking about this as I remembered the story of the birthday of the world:


According to the Kabbalah, in the beginning, there was only the holy darkness. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light.


And then, the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world, were scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people.

A diaspora of grace.


What am I going to do about the problems facing the world today? I am going to put my faith in the diaspora of grace.


I am going to listen. I am going to seek first to understand.


I am going to listen, really listen, and keep listening, until I can hear the holy/god spark in the stories people tell and in the events they recount. And in finding that spark, by recognizing the light it sheds, by making it visible, maybe I can restore some trust in the world today. Maybe I can create a shared space where compassion can exist, a safe space to demonstrate that we are all connected.


Because we are. Whether we can agree or not …


And so it is.


Robin


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