On Christmas Eve, 1995. Susan asked, "A friend called me and said she was going to kill herself. Should I have interfered and tried to stop her, or let her be responsible for her own life? I tried to think about what was right for her."
Four of us had gathered in front of the fireplace and sat in the shadows cast by the Christmas tree. There was a moment of silence and reflection. Each of us was formulating our response. I spoke first.
"It is not a matter of what is right for her," I said. "You can't know that. You can only ask what is right for you. That is the truer question. What did your heart tell you to do?"
Susan replied with a philosophical dilemma, "Well, I wanted to try and stop her, but I've been told that it is not right to meddle in someone else's process of learning."
I don't know who told her that. I know there is a strain of spiritual attitude which maintains that everyone is responsible for themselves. This is true, but it is not the whole truth. This partial truth can be used to turn from others when we ought to turn towards them.
The whole truth is that no one is separate from us. While we are each "separate" lights, we are strung on a one cord, with the juice for each light coming from the same, single source. Sharing the single source of juice for living is what makes us each a part of the other. No one's pain and confusion and hopelessness is different from ours. Yes, we must learn to face adversity and despair with strength and insight and resolve to not be crushed. We must all learn for ourselves that there is always a part of us that is not in pain, that is not hopeless, that is not sinking in despair. We can learn about this when we see that another's pain is not different from ours, and that to speak or act to reduce another's pain is to free us from our own pain.
I told Susan about a client of mine who had recently called me. He said, "Rob I have a nine millimeter pistol at my head, and I'm going to pull the trigger. I can't take it anymore."
That gun was pointed at my head as well. It was my voice that spoke those words of final despair in a moment of overwhelming pressure. If he pulled the trigger, I pulled the trigger. If he died, I died. Was I prepared to be crushed by a moment of great pain? I was not.
I spoke these words to myself and to him, over and over and over, for one hour. "I love you, and this moment will not last. I love you and this moment will not last." For one hour, I chanted this mantra from the voice of the whole truth to the pain of partial truth. No one died that night, but two were born, together, into their oneness and into the whole truth. A little pain, a little hopelessness was turned into grace by a little love.
If I interfered, I only did so on my own behalf. Perhaps one day my client may pull the trigger, but it won't be on my watch. I am not ready to cave in, and I know that it was right for me to embrace his pain, my pain, with the greater truth of our lives. How can we turn away?
I don't want to suggest that my response ought to be a formula, because I don't think there is any formula by which we can live. Each moment asks us only to respond. From where will we respond? From an idea that freezes the liquid salvation of the heart? Or from that place that knows we are all in the game of meeting pain with love, despair with faith, confusion with clarity?
Things will be what they must be. People can be crushed and people will blow their brains out. We do need to be responsible and grapple with the adversity in our lives. We do need to find our own way out of darkness and into the light. But who has ever done this alone? No one is alone. This struggle is our struggle; it is not someone else's.
It is never a matter of what is right for someone else. We can never know, and we ought not let the chess master of consideration get in the way of the heart leaping straight into the fray. This heart has tremendous hands, great skill, invincible resolve.
Is it ever not right to engage pain with love, confusion with insight, hopelessness with faith? Should we really just say to someone, "Go ahead, pull the trigger"?
May everyone be at peace, in love, and know their most perfect Self.
Robert Rabbin is an author, speaker, and advisor. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com, or by writing: 2629 Manhattan Ave., Ste. 192, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. His new book, The Sacred Hub (The Crossing Press, ISBN: 0-89594-837-0), is available in bookstores or from the publisher at (800) 777-1048.
"Echoes of Silence" is a bi-weekly column by Robert Rabbin--author, speaker, and advisor--who has spend thirty years using self-inquiry as a means to explore the true nature of self, mind, reality, and consciousness.
His books include Echoes of Silence: Awakening the Meditative Spirit, The Sacred Hub, and Invisible Leadership: Igniting the Soul at Work, available through bookstores nationwide. Rob can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.