The thickness of life is overwhelming in how it integrates itself into the thinness of life. As I sit, perpetually vacillating between my sense of purpose that compels me to focus on doing something of worth and my summer vacation slant toward reading for pleasure, I read about the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians, and I read condemnations of Israelis and Palestinians, and I listen to speeches about the destruction of neighborhoods and the destruction of the world, leaving myself little room to escape into any semblance of soothing isolation.
Instead of making a decision, I call my mother to book plane tickets for her visit here next week. During the call she recounts her latest troubles with a friend. I don’t discount her as I generally do, but accept that people, at all phases of organizational structure, don’t always get along: one may try and one may be trying, one may push and one may stop yielding.
A few minutes after we hang up, she emails, telling me that her friend’s daughter (who has been in a hospice for weeks) just passed away. The cycle of violence reverts to the cycle of life. She is the third person I know or know of who has died in the past two months, two from cancer and one by choking. They were in their 40s and 50s. Two daughters and a son. Two mothers and a father.
All deaths are tangible; all life is tangible.
Tears roll down my face as I think of this woman, these acquaintances. Then, in a transition unnecessary of explanation, I think of my daughters.
There is such a sadness that accompanies life that it’s hard to believe there’s a purpose, and it’s hard not to believe there’s a purpose. One foot goes in front of the other whether we are full of pain or joy. One person battles cancer, another battles a spouse. One perches amidst challenges, another retreats from challengers. It’s all the same. There is the forest and there are the trees. There is spring and there is fall. What ties each generation to our floating castle in the sky? What do I fear and what do I cherish—at this moment?
The reality beyond the infinitesimal turning of the wheel makes me realize that so much of life feels that it is lived while held under water. Life as a paddle wheel. Is there ever enough laughter before submersion into pain (of self or empathy)?
But as I live through this cycle time-beyond-counting, I realize that its value is in understanding that we are not alone. At each moment of experience we can psychically wave to someone in the midst of a parallel experience, perhaps endlessly waving. This comfort is not in numbers, but in compassion that goes out and comes in, providing shelter sturdier than walls. Is that the point? To value the connections we cannot see, to live as though each experience is a shared experience, to trust that our hearts beat for each other. To believe that compassion is the true world order and to live as if it was in spite of the push downward.