Thursday, June 4, 2015

When It's Personal

Around 6PM most nights, I take great pleasure in stretching out on my 25 year old leather couch to stream a documentary on my internet-friendly flatscreen. Sacred places become thus after many moments of grace-filled beingness and my couch is no exception.

Over the years, it has accommodated wonderful guests; a clever dog who slept on it at night when we weren't looking (but left telltale hairs); sleeping children; movie-loving teenagers; and inebriated adults who were smart enough to stay put and leave the highways and byways to other folks.

A place of refuge, old faithful provides a snuggly place to escape the world, while paradoxically learning more about it. Occasionally, comedic fare lights up the screen but more often the documentaries of choice highlight injustices, political chicanery, and straight out horror that humans inflict on one another.

My daughter passed through the living room on the way to the kitchen and glancing at the screen showing an exposé on child sex slaves, she remarked, "Why do you watch that shit?" Other people have phrased it differently: "I can't bear to watch that," or "It makes me too sad," and other comments of that ilk.

After seeing firsthand unimaginable living conditions in Nepal, Bhutan, India, South Africa, and Myanmar (Burma), what I see on the screen looks all too familiar.To witness human suffering is to learn about life. Knowing this, I feel wonderment that my incarnation has found itself in a peaceful environment where food is plentiful and crime is almost non-existent, not to speak of being a Western woman with civil rights.

Usually, these documentaries pique my curiosity and empathy but last night I watched one that made my heart beat faster and a heaviness form in my chest. Told by the CEO of Canter-Fitzgerald, it was his account of the 911 attack that wiped out about 700 of his 900 employees.

Granted, he could return to his estate while most people return to their hovels or have nowhere to sleep anymore. Granted, he had the resources and technology to pull himself and his company out of total ruin, while most people have no such infrastructure.

Yet, human suffering is human suffering no matter what one's economic stature or nationality. What caught me off-guard was my visceral reaction to this documentary as opposed to all the others. And why? Because I could identify with these people. I came from a New York family - my ethnic roots were similar to the CEO - the world of finance and investment has always been in my family background - many of those killed lived in the same county in which I grew up.

What I learned last night: despite my efforts to connect with the One and to realize interdependence, I still carry a tribal identity that evokes cellular, visceral reactions that do not occur when watching the suffering of "others."

It's good to see the "what is" in the mindset and even better to widen one's worldview so that eventually all humanity is "us."


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