An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Monday, April 19, 2010

We are all broken

Over the weekend I read a book that spoke of the unfathomable depths of depression and the feelings of helplessness and despair associated with those suffering from mental illness and those trying to deal with loved ones who are suffering. It also touched on the feelings that sufferers of mental illness have of being all  alone in their pain, of not being understood, of not being accepted, of having this dark secret that they have to bury deep within. What came through so clearly to me in reading this book, is that they are not so different from the rest of humanity.

We are all broken in some way. We all hurt. We all carry secrets within us that we are afraid to speak of lest everyone we know think less of us. We all feel guilty and powerless at times. We're not omnipotent. We don't control the order of the universe. We could all go back and change the things we have done, the decisions we have made, the unthinking words we have uttered in anger or insecurity, the people we have hurt or pushed aside. With hindsight, we could have handled things better, made other decisions, said something more appropriate, not acted in the way we had. And we are all touched in some way by illness, whether it be an alcoholic parent or grandparent with dementia, a sibling with depression, a child with ADHD or anorexia, a friend with cancer or a partner who has suffered a stroke. There is no shame in any of this. It is all a part of being human.

African philosophy recognises this and speaks of 'ubuntu' as being a quality all humans should strive to achieve. People with ubuntu are 'approachable and welcoming', accepting of others and their shortcomings,  prepared to use their strengths on behalf of the weak, the poor and the ill, without taking advantage of them. At the same time they are not threatened by the strengths and talents of others as their own self esteem and self worth is generated by knowing that they are part of a greater whole.
How wonderful if we could all strive to possess this quality of ubuntu, if we could all believe that we are connected to each other and therefore responsible for being hospitable, compassionate, understanding and caring towards those in pain. 

As parents, we have a responsibility to impress upon our very fortunate children that they are indeed privileged to be in a situation where they are loved and cared for with unimpeded access to education, and that as such, they have a responsibility to others in their communities, and the world, who are hurting. It would only take a few minutes of our time each day to do something good for someone we know to be in need, whether it be a few encouraging words, extending the hand of friendship, or just a warm smile at the right time, just something small to show we care.

Mother Teresa believed in humanity and in small acts of love leading to great changes. Her life was focused entirely on bringing dignity and compassion into the lives of the broken, the destitute and the afflicted of Calcutta. In this hardened, cynical world, she believed that great things can be achieved simply through expressing love for others, often saying that a smile is the beginning of love. 

Lately, I have been heartened by the humanity I see expressed every day by so many ordinary yet inspirational people who are members of Twitter, the leading on-line social community. I initially joined at the strong suggestion of various business colleagues who maintained that it was a way to gain strong exposure for my fine art photography business. I'm not so sure of the value of Twitter as a way to market individual businesses, however I am very sure that it is a wonderful place for people to find friendship and inspiration and to create awareness for causes that help and inspire others. 
Something else I recently came across was the concept of a 'Human Library', first founded in Denmark as a way to help dispel prejudice by utilising face to face conversations with people from very different cultures or circumstances who have experienced discrimination. The concept has taken off and these living libraries have been set up all over the world - an idea where simple human contact has the power to overcome something as strong as prejudice.

We are all broken in some way, but, in Mahatma Gandhi's words, "love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable." With love, we can all find our way to healing, and with love we can show those who are suffering, a little compassion and understanding to enable them to see that with love they can begin to swim up from the darkest depths of their despair and suffering. 

1 comment:

  1. Another moving, heart-felt comment on every day life.
    You bring me light, and thank you for that.
    I LOVE your posts!