I think one of the most important questions for an individual living in these current times is whether we see a path forward for ourselves.
If the path we are following is that we continue doing what we have been doing, we may feel that this is our best way of protecting ourselves and our community from the kind of terrible losses we see playing out on the international stage. Witnessing the unspeakable conditions that prevail in war-ravaged parts of the world, it makes sense to return to our lives as we are living them, grateful for the relative peace and security they offer.
However, attending Survivor of Suicide peer support meetings, I am familiar with how the hand of impermanence can reach into our basically comfortable lives, leaving us yanking at a ripcord that, at first, doesn’t seem to be connected to a parachute.
I have begun to notice that just believing that we are embarked on a path forward in our lives is in itself a tremendous blessing—especially if we have suffered an event that has shattered the peace of mind we had counted on until then.
We have good reason to feel grateful if a path has already opened for us—whether through religion, community, connection to family and friends, exploration of the natural world, or in our favorite interests in the arts and sciences.
I am appreciative for my interests and for the freedom I enjoy to explore them. At the same time, for several years now, I have felt that I am living in a world in which humanity has taken a fatal misstep, giving unbridled power to economic and social practices that not only cast aside the well-being of countless beings, but are deeply wounding the very web of live on which any tolerable future depends.
Viewed as a part of this endangered web of life, my own comfort and the freedom to explore my interests isn’t enough. My personal satisfactions then feel like moving chairs on the deck of a sinking ship. Some other way of looking at the potential of this human life is needed.
The question then arises: is there a path that could allow me to feel that I am not just amusing myself in the moments before the approaching catastrophe hits full force—like a child who runs out onto the stretch of beach that suddenly expands just before the towering tsunami comes ashore? Speaking of children, we mustn’t forget that they are the ones who are inheriting a world that we, their parents, have allowed to become so broken.
This morning, I reached a point in a book that I have been reading and rereading since my son died in the spring of 2019; I reached the point where, once again, a passage articulates what I deeply hope can cast its light into my own future. When I read this passage years ago, it expressed a possibility that I could only hope life would one day allow to take place.
This morning, I still felt that hope but there was another element in my response. What I heard expressed in these sentences was not just a hoped-for outcome that I might reach sometime in the future. I heard the invocation of a path forward that I can enter right now and then spend the rest of my days on Earth treading.
“One day, your family and friends might say: ‘There’s something different about you these days. You seem wiser and kinder. What happened: How did you change?’
“You can tell them:
“I practiced caring awareness and did my best to love myself. When I was able to do that, I discovered goodness in myself that I wanted to protect. Then I began to notice that same goodness in others.
“I learned through my own imperfections: that is how I got this knowledge.” Caring, Page 239
What a joy it must be to earn this kind of recognition from those we meet along the byways of this life. Even to feel that we are being guided by a star of goodness can allow us to contact the rays of goodness that still prevail in our world. That is the path forward that I wish to follow.