Sunday, June 28, 2015

People Paradox

A wise physician once gave me these words of wisdom: "I went into family medicine because I wanted to work with people. Trouble is, people aren't all they're cracked up to be."

A wise nurse I worked with had this refrain, "There is a very thin line between love and hate."

It's no secret that our human relationships provide us with both with our greatest joys and greatest sufferings.

It's the romantic in me that often wants to reach out and embrace everyone and everything, pouring out unconditional peace, love and joy on this suffering world from my tender bleeding heart. But that well runs dry quickly, and that sort of reach leaves one's guts exposed.

It's the introvert in me that often wants--needs--to retreat within, to my fortress of solitude, to find my peace and presence there, my drishti, in something that's not moving, something more stable than these fickle human beings everywhere. But that sort of withdrawal usually leads to isolation and stagnation.

There's an incredible communal power that comes from being in an arena packed with U2 super fans and singing in unison, "I want to run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside, I want to reach out and touch the flame, where the streets have no name . . ."

And there's the misanthropy that is the inevitable result of elbowing your way through Walmart at 4 am on Black Friday as you try to get that HDTV for $299 but come away instead with a blender you don't need for $12, which maybe wasn't actually such a good deal after all?

I feel frequent tension between these two poles. I think most people are the same. It's what makes us both anticipate and dread reunions. It means that there is a great table of brotherhood that we all sit down at together, and there is a lonesome valley that we all must walk alone. 

I don't think these oscillations make us selfish or needy or unstable. It's a continuum of our life experience. It all comes in one package. It means we need intimacy as well as elbowroom, society as well as solitude. It means we're human.

(But as we know, humans aren't all they're cracked up to be.)

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