“By ourselves we are never enough. We need others to help us; we need others in order to help them. Thus, the question ‘Who am I?’ carries within itself another, even more important question: ‘Where do I belong?’” —from The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham
This is my family. As I learned from working with Ernie Kurtz, in this life we are all born into a kind of paradoxical “4-H Club.” When we are close enough to hug someone, we are also close enough to be hugged by that person. But—we are also close enough to hit or be hit— even if, as often happens, the blow is accidental. A favorite story in my family revolves around a fight with my brother John, just 18 months older than me, in our dining room. I ran around the table as fast as I could but he was faster so I grabbed a steak knife from the table. John stopped, eyes wide. “You wouldn’t do that,” he said. I threw it at him and just barely missed his head. We both looked in something approaching awe (horror?) at the knife standing upright, swaying slightly, stuck in the wood floor.
Healing and hurting work much in the same way—we cannot heal each other without getting close but in coming that close, we can also hurt each other, even if unintentionally. Closeness, affection, intimacy, love are all risky endeavors. Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotations: We have to continue jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down. (Ray Bradbury)
Two friends were walking through the desert. At one point in the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand: "TODAY, MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE".
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who got slapped and hurt started drowning, and the other friend saved him. When he recovered from the fright, he wrote on a stone: "TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE".
The friend who saved and slapped his best friend, asked him, "Why, after I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you write on a stone?"
The other friend, smiling, replied:"When a friend hurts us, we should write it down in the sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away;when something great happens, we should engrave it in the stone of the memory of the heart, where no wind can erase it."
AN OLD RABBINIC TALE
There is an old rabbinic tale: The Lord said to the Rabbi, "Come, I will show you hell."
They entered a room where a group of people sat around a huge pot of stew. Everyone was famished and desperate. Each held a spoon that reached the pot but had a handle so long it could not be used to reach their mouths. The suffering was terrible.
"Come, now I will show you heaven," the Lord said after a while.
They entered another room, identical to the first -- the pot of stew, the group of people, the same long spoons. But there everyone was happy and nourished.
"I don't understand," said the Rabbi. "Why are they happy here when they were miserable in the other room, and everything was the same?"
The Lord smiled, "Ah, but don't you see?" he said. "Here they have learned to feed each other."