You might like to hear a bit further about a very special period of my life, starting in Dec.1975 (my senior year at Clark Univ., Mass, US). I had landed at La Guardia Airport, for a music job in NYC, when a terror bomb exploded, injuring some 85 people and killing 11 instantly. I have been blessed enough to recover so well that today no one can ever tell I've been through such an experience. It took me two years to recover, however, as I had serious injuries, literally from head to toe (nearly losing my right arm, nearly needing brain surgery--but managing to escape from both, fairly miraculously, so it was said). In addition, I had total amnesia for a time that felt like infinite, though no longer than 1-2 hrs on the clock dial (not even my name I knew, a strange feeling of
"not-existing"...). That meant, the explosion experience was followed by a long term investiment also to "recover my past" (most of which I did).
So the temporary losses were great, both on a physical and on a non-physical dimension. As a result, the two years which followed the explosion, were indeed the most intense years of my life, as far as growth. I had much to think and thank!
As I became aware of the 11 fatal casualties around me, the thought of having survived at first made me find it so "unfair of life" that they would go and not me, even if I was at the same time thankful for my own life, of course! I remember the first night, my quieltly asking God "why me?, why me?" No matter how much I searched for an answer, I could not understand it. I was the only young person in that group, I could then remember. Why spare me, and not spare those who had children, for ex.? And I was only a college student...someone of no importance at all, as I could understand it. I never had any answer to that question. But I finally decided on an "agreement" with God, with the universe, with those who had gone and left me behind at the airport, and with myself, as well: if, for whatever reason (which transcended the small understanding inherent to my own humanness) I had been spared, then I had to make sure my life would be worthy of it. I had been given a grace or blessing, in advance to my own merit of it; I should thus honor this gift. With this "agreement", I managed to sleep in peace, despite the traumatic event I had just been through. And, strangely enough, I never had even one nightmare involving the explosion.
The period which followed was a long period of recovery, and also one which demanded an enormous amount of patience and perseverance--patience being a quality I then lacked (I can still remember my father commenting, throughout my childhood, that I needed to cultivate patience, for it was an invaluable virtue). So, patience was the first challenge I had ahead of me in order to make my life worthy of having been reborn within the same life. And I took heart, the best I could.
While facing all these news challenges, at the same time I had more "idle brain time" than ever. This was due not only to my physical difficulties in locomotion & in doing things in general (which slowed considerably the pace of my life), but also due to the many, many days I had to be bedridden in a dark room because of excruciating pains in my head (for those two years which followed the explosion--then less and less often, for fifteen years, all in all). I had thus more time for meditating than ever before in my life, even if I had always been inclined to a very rich inner life. In some ways, strangely enough, this was the most beautiful period of my life so far.
I was "reduced" to the very raw or basic state of my humanness. I could see indeed how small we are, how helpless we are, in so many ways, even if we usually do not take notice or enjoy realizing it. Somehow in our humaness we seem to have an "attraction" to thinking ourselves big, knowlegeable, powerful, important, etc... It may be (I have thought) our very inner motivation to express the "divine inner nature" that lurks within, that which motivates in us instinctively (thus also blindly) an illusion of or crave for importance and/or power, etc. It takes recognizing and growing beyond our basic instincs and needs to realize that, paradoxically enough, we begin "exhaling" the might and light we bring within, then quite spontaneously and undeniably, rather by being humble enough to serve & be useful, at the same time making ourselves one with creation.
In addition to being alike in the sense of our "divine inner nature," I could see we are also so much alike when reduced to our very "human-rawness," as for ex, when in face of pain or joy! The president and the garbage-collector will experience the same pain and same joy. And in such a moment, they will be able to identify with each other--a situation which, within the daily human social life, would not have a chance of occurring. There is something in our human condition that levels us, the rest being accessory, rather a product of our own making, in many ways, as it also is a product of social organization. I also realized, however, that not all of us were conscious of this...modern life tends to leave very little time for
introspection and meditation, unless one "makes" that time (or else "is given"
that time, as I was after the explosion).
Neither do all of us share the same "stage" of inner growth or enlightment, of course. The alikeness is, in many ways, relative--as most things in our "world of paradoxes" (as I many times think of this marvelous world we all share here). Now, even those whom we may see struggling to reach plateaux that we have already managed to leave behind in our long climb, we are able to identify with, to love, and through this love both feel one with and empathize sincerely with. Thus, at the very bottom of it all, there is no room for whatever feeling of standing out in importance or achievement. By the same token, those whom we recognize in yet higher plateaux than our own, we are able both to love in respect and to identify with, just as well, since they embody a goal we are in search of, heading towards. There is thus no room to feel "inferior," either, however small we may feel.
For it is rather the intensity and sincerity of our own quest, that which gives us a dimension, relative to the ones around us. Using our potentials and learning opportunities as intensely as we possibly can, as I have come to understand it, is what makes our existence meaningful, worthy. Appearances are deceptive, on whatever level. The fact is that we are all
on the same journey, regardless of where on the map we may find ourselves, also regardless of the speed we travel. It is thus of very little use, to put it mildly, to come ashore alone, or to stand out as the first, or as a "record holder"...
In addition, it seems to be due to the paradoxes of this world that we end up caught in unimportant details, such as achievement, competition, higher or lower, more or less powerful, etc. As we transcend these paradoxes, the seeming differences dilute in a oneness beyond words--the unity in diversity. It is as if our dual metaphysical, non-holistic "reality," where subject and object keep a "safe" analytical distance, prevents us from experiencing the oneness beyond words, where distances are transcended, where there is no object, no subject, but multidimensional oneness. And we are both the entirety of this oneness and an insignificant spec, connected and related to so many others, inter- and intradimensionally, within this unlimited whole.
I should add, though, that I do see and appreciate the importance also of taking analytical distance (given that we are part of this methapysical "reality"), though not exclusively, not as a modus vivendi, but rather as a necessary, complementary tool now and then, without, however, dwelling in it, becoming enslaved in or by it. Just about everything can serve a good purpose; what we usually lack is the Wisdom for using it in such a way.
(I personally call this, "positive alchemy": the ability of making healthy, positive, constructive use of whatever--whether beneficial or harmful, in principle. Accordingly, I live in search of this Wisdom, realizing, though, in awe, at every step, how small I still am. But I take heart--there is beauty also in the going; not necessarily in the arriving.)
I realized in those days, as well, that all of us are indeed motivated to being good. In fact, I believe we all need to feel that we are good people, that we act righteously, kindly, etc. But, as "the flesh is weak," we so often fall into "compromises," get trapped into webs of our own weaving, at times get caught in such an arduous search of a needed self approval . . . we may thus end up doing that which appears to be right and kind, but which is indeed of little effect, no matter the intention or apperance. I also realized that in those cases we had "performed" rather than really "done" whatever it was. In our blindness, however, we had been contented with our actions, without realizing that the essence of what needed to be done had been left untackled... Indeed, more often than we seem ready to accept in quiet, we help others this way, despite our best and most sincere intentions. (Our intentions and the actual outcome of our actions do not necessarily bear the smooth correspondence our rational minds tend to wish to attribute them.)
These were some of my "post-explosion" learnings, side by side with my realizing that it was possible not to resent whoever had been responsible for that sad outburst of aggression. For I realized that they had not been given the "grace" of enjoying that oneness I had had glimpes of before and was beginning to understand more and more then. I felt that only a terribly strong detatchment from our fellow-humans could enable one to reach such cold-blooded cruelty. So I felt sorry for them (terrorists), instead of experiencing rage or revolt, as many who were at the airport on that evening later experienced (justly so, in view of what they were facing, although they'd unfortunately gain nothing positive out of feeling so). So I could "pray" also for "the bombers". I could feel one also with them, even if sadly so, but sympathetically so, as well.
It is true that the "bombers" had failed to identify in me, and the other people at that airport, a human being, no different from them, "bombers;" true that they had failed to honor the Human Nature in me, and in the others at that airport; true that the "bombers" had failed to experience even if a drop of kindness, or empathy, or sympathy toward any of us at that airport. But just this is no reason why I should likewise fail to see a human being in them, "bombers," fail to honor the Human Nature that lies within each of them, "bombers," fail to sympathize with them, however sadly I'd do it, fail to try to understand them – that is, to try to understand a reality (their reality, their context, their motivation) which, to me, had thus far lain beyond the realms of surrealism, but yet was there, crudely painfully before my eyes.
An eye for en eye? A tooth for a tooth? (I urge you please to see MieNet's Page on the Language of Divine Poetry)
Please tell me, how can we ever dream of a wiser and kinder World and Humanity if we blindly return in kind every wrong that is ever done to us?!!!...
At the end of those two years of recovery, I was beginning to "put my finger on" whatever I had grown from the entire experience, to understand what kind of being I had been growing into, as a product of my ever-commitment with learning and growing, and in face of the precious chance life had honored me with. It was around that time that the “what's important” poem started growing within me and the ideas in it finally got tamed onto the written page.
As to this precious chance just referred to above, paradoxically enough, again, it could all at first appear as a most lamentable experience that I, such a peaceful human, so committed with loving and with exercising myself daily in the art of Love, should have been the object of such violence, such uncontained hatred! No doubt it did hurt within, from a human point of view: at times I did feel hurt, vulnerable, in my own small humanness, in face of that undeserved powerful violence.
As Marcel Proust said, though, "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." I somehow managed to keep my inner vision "calibrated" onto what I could make healthy use of, both for myself and for the ones around me, within that context I had suddenly found myself placed, one day in Dec., 1975. That is, in my own terms, I made my "positive alchemy" out of that bomb explosion experience, an attitude which enabled me also to be grateful for the experience, even though I would have never chosen to go through it, had I been asked! The flesh is weak...I would have feared the pain, the many struggles, etc., even if in face of all there was to gain "in exchange"!...
To conclude the little "story" above, around my 24nd birthday, I was happy to be able to re-start life as we understand it, from a social, functional point of view: jobs,
education, entertainment, etc, like everyone else my age:).