Pain might be the single most common denominator of life. Everyone has pain, sometime. Everyone understands that life contains pain.
This is the most tragic and confusing human irony to me: that pain, our most shared thing, is also the thing that most isolates us from each other. And the isolation makes it hurt even more.
But... why? Why does pain set us apart, isolate us? Several reasons.
We isolate ourselves and hide our pain from because we don't want to admit weakness to others. We hide our pain because we don't want our loved ones to worry about us. Or because we hope that if we ignore the pain, it will pass more quickly.
We might hide our pain because we know that people don't like to look at pain, and we're afraid our loved ones will avoid us when we need them the most. And when you're loved ones turn away, that hurts the most of all.
The most basic, instinctive, reason we hide pain is so others won't take advantage of our infirmity, and hurt us even more. We don't want others to know we're bleeding.
We even use bleeding as a metaphor in financial transactions.
"Smell the Blood" is a phrase that means to recognize an opportunity to take advantage of someone who is in a difficult situation. When I used to work in negotiations for a client who was in a tight spot, we were careful not to let the opposition "smell the blood."
Also in negotiations, there were parties who just weren't happy -who wouldn't finalize the transaction- unless they made someone "bleed on the table;" that is, they wanted to feel like the other party gave up more than they wanted to ...that they made the other party feel some kind of pain.
Bullies pick on those who are weak, wounded, or unable to defend themselves.
Even animals hide their pain and wounds, because predators look for injured animals as easy prey. The sharks start to circle. The vultures gather.
Pain and fear go hand in hand.
But we have another thing in common, that can transcend the instinct to isolate ourselves:
Everyone has the ability to hope. And everyone has the ability to love.
Hope. Hope eclipses the fear, and calls up the courage to acknowledge the humanity of reaching out for help, when it's needed. The humanity to admit we need help, we need comfort, we need connection. The hope to reach out and ask for recognition in your suffering. The hope of a caring word or a gentle hand, even if just for a moment.
Love. Simple love for life, for all of our brother and sister beings. Love awakens us, impels us to take up the courage of seeing another's pain and reaching out in comfort, in recognition. The courage to see and respond, instead of turning away.
It's beautiful, loving, thousandfold humane that we reach out in to each other. That we can connect and recognize, and share, and ease pain.
And it's everywhere! Everywhere, every day, you can read or hear a story of everyday people -and even pets, and wild animals- who reach out through, over, or beyond pain and fear; to need and ask, to connect and share, to comfort and help, to see, and to listen.
I'm inspired over and over, every day, by the loving, generous, kind, sincere; help, sharing, and support that I see. And I'm grateful, so grateful.
Sometimes it seems like greed, avarice, and uncaring drive the world; but when I start to see too much of that, I'm so grateful I have you, my fellow beings, my brothers and sisters in pain, and in love, to remind me that we do transcend. We do rise above. And we do help each other every day.
You all inspire me. I'm grateful for you.