Empty World

“Like there was this time I kinda ran over this girl on a bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my WHOLE LIFE– but this girl kept trying to make it all about HER leg! Like MY pain meant nothing.”

Can you tell I’m on a Buffy streak? From the episode we watched last night, the popular girl complaining about how self-centered other people can be. Emphasis on “other.”

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day expressing disbelief at how unaware some people can be, unaware of their state of their relationships, unaware of other people’s silent screams for help.

“It makes sense. When I was afraid and unloved I was the only person on the planet. I wasn’t even aware that other people even existed so the idea of caring about them or being aware of them… being aware of who?”

She helped put things in perspective for me.

True. Now that I can see clearly it’s so easy to imagine that the truth has always been so apparent.

The scary thing is that I thought it was. I thought that I could see clearly. I thought I knew who I was. thought I cared about people– and I did, to the best of my ability. It just so happens that my ability to care about people was akin to the ability of a child with Down syndrome to compute differential equations. Actually, my attempts were worse because there’s no way a child with Down Syndrome could possibly wound the field of differential equations. People– now those you can wound.

Bless my misguided heart, I sure tried.

I didn’t even realize how much pain I was in, not because I was in an unusual amount of pain, but because hurting that much is such a tragically average occurrence. If we’re told it’s normal, we assume normal is a good thing.

But my friend is right. When we feel that unloved and disconnected, however unconsciously it may be, we truly aren’t aware that other people exist. What a lonely existence. All we can see is what someone might to do us or for us and so all of our effort is sunk into trying to protect ourselves from perceived or actual dangers or trying to get something for ourselves.

The common denominator? Me, me, me.

It’s unspeakably tragic and not something I mock. It’s the only reason we’re ever bewildered, angered, or hurt by anyone else’s actions. So when we see people acting in comically selfish ways– as people often do– we needn’t be limited by taking it as a personal affront. If we simply identify the fact that they are reacting to pain we can replace our self-righteousness with compassion and add to the love in the world as opposed to worsening that pain.

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