Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Human Wound

I’ve come to believe that the quality distinguishing humans from other creatures is our awareness of a wound, a sore spot, a tenderness that is the source of both all our pain and ultimately our joy. Other living creatures, though subject to the same natural pains and laws of physics, remain blessedly unaware of the nature of the wound, and hence do not suffer in quite the same way as do conscious humans. The dawning awareness of this woundedness, this tender spot, is the real life phenomenon that sees its symbol in the idea of our fall from grace, our expulsion from the garden, our entrapment in samsara.

How we respond to our woundedness governs the quality of our lives, in the end. It determines if we remain trapped in dreariness, or find at-one-ment.

The traditional path of a life is to structure things so that we cover up the wound, hide it from others and even ourselves. In anger and fear, we try to plate over our mortal wound with thick layers of costuming and personality, trying to keep others from seeing it and trying to forget about it ourselves. We go to war to protect the wound. We build civilizations around the effort to hide the wound. Our technologies evolve as efforts to defeat the wound. We dress in fancy clothes and dwell in palaces to keep attention away from the wound. Though this is the common way to live, it is not a very pleasant one. It is a happy occasion to wake up from this condition.

Fortunately, the wound is inherent in us, and cannot be avoided forever. Clear seeing will eventually show you the truth of this. Knowing it and accepting it is a sign of our evolution, our consciousness. To hide from the wound is to live a life of non-truth. To do this is ultimately an evil life, for virtually all evil acts are strategies to hide from the wound or to push it onto others that we might forget it.

We are lucky that we can’t hide forever from the truth, and a genuine glimpse of our own mortal woundedness is what offers us the opportunity to change, to awaken. To awaken and feel the wound after a long period of hiding is something you should celebrate. Some day, you may well come to realize that the moments of greatest trauma were also your moments of greatest awakening.

Sometimes through luck, sometimes with help, you may find that there is another way to respond to the knowledge of our wound. We do not have to hide, we do no need to defend. We can acknowledge the wound, accept it, live gladly with it even. We can tenderly care for their own wound, and treat the tender spots of others with compassion and empathy. We can respond to it with good nature, with irony and humour and understanding. This is the path of the artists who live to articulate the experience of our human woundedness; the mystics who lived and died with compassion for the wounded; the saints who care for the universal wound. It’s also a trait found in every good soul you’ve known.

Perhaps you have known people who live this way, or maybe you have discovered it for yourself: It is when we are confronted with the indisputable and unavoidable truth of our woundedness that a conscious, free life begins.

The happiest people I’ve ever known are those most aware of the tender wound in themselves and others. They ache with others, and for others.


Jerri said...

In the 6th paragraph, the second clause of the second sentence, you're missing a "t" in the word "not."

Please fix it. Then this post will be perfect in every way.

(Don't really care about the "t." Just saying this is fantastic. Superior to your usual excellent standards. Truly Great.)

excavator said...

Thank you, Mercurious. That was wonderful to read.

For some reason Blogger isn't letting me sign in. My username is Excavator.

Glamourpuss said...

My therapist always used to say the ultimate strength was weakness. Makes me think of Chiron.


August said...

I feel I come to this blog to breathe easier. What an exhale I've released upon reading this post. Beautifully written, M.