The Palms of Our Hearts

compassion-500x333pxI cannot imagine the terror that must have been on the Malaysian Airplane that disappeared almost two weeks ago. Apparently the plane changed altitudes and speeds abruptly at various points, and flew on in some direction for a number of hours. Whatever the cause of its disappearance turns out to be, it is frightening to think of the passengers and what their last hours must have been. We all want our lives to go well, to be filled with joy rather than sorrow, with happiness rather than terror, with health rather than sickness. And, for most of us, and for the most part, our lives are pretty good. Most of us are among the privileged on the earth, and we ought to be ever grateful for that. But that is not true for everyone.

The lines from the Seamus Heaney poem stay with me:

Finding himself linked

Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand

Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks

Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

I am reminded that we are linked into the network of eternal life; we are linked to everything that is, which means that the sorrow of others is our sorrow, the terror of others is out terror. And pity, the kind of pity that can create compassion and care, is the right response. And, then, as the poet says, we hold these things close until they are hatched and fled and flown.

This means that we should care for others, that our lives are made whole by holding others in the palms of our hearts and minds. This means that compassion matters above all else, that giving really is better than receiving. It means we should want the best for others. But terror does strike; tragedies do happen; violence is all too common; sorrow and pain are constants in the human condition.

But joy happens too, and love is abundant; beauty exists everywhere. Spring is here and perhaps it symbolism as new life and new beginnings is apt, that life has sorrow and joy, tragedy and triumph.

It is just good to remember it all.

-Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson

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