A week or so ago, while at work, an older female patient came to my desk for something. While we were doing business she started chatting about how excited she was for her grand-daughter’s high school graduation. After the tasks at hand were completed, she stuck around momentarily and relayed more to me about how proud and excited she was and how thrilled the family was for the young girl to reach this milestone. This reminded me something about compassion and how distant my own grasp of buddhi is at times.
My family isn’t filled with Einsteins. Typically, we work hard and with our hands. Most of us are blue-collar, with a few here and there who are white-collar. Virtually across the board, with the exception of a few nurses, high school is the highest level of education most of us achieve. Having said that, we’re not bottom-of-the-barrell kind folk either. Lots of common sense. A fair amount of street smarts. And often enough, a good grasp on “book stuff,” too. I might point out that among those in my immediate family, I’m the only one who’s taken education as far as I have. Beyond high school I’ve gone to two technical schools (one for cosmetology and one for medical assisting) and I’m now pursuing a “real” degree at an actual college.
So when I see a grown woman glowing because of a high school graduation-something I regard as a given in life-my first (internal) response is something not far from, “Aww… pathetic. What an impressive specimen this grand-daughter must be! (sarcastically)”
Then there’s a split second when I’m aware of my ignorance. In a millisecond of realization, I’m reminded of how far my development still has to go! As soon as this super brief moment passes, I’m flooded with what I perceive to be a compassionate feeling for this human.
So much in life is relative… ummm, a whole lot, actually. We say that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but it’s not always so. Swami Vivekananda said, and I’m not quoting exactly, that what’s right for you may not be right for me and vice versa. I think this principle applies nearly everywhere to nearly everyone. (Perhaps certain exceptions would include groups of people, where the goal is the same, then maybe everyone should abide by the same rules of operation so that the same goal is reached together.) And I think in another context, like the one involving the woman, this would translate as something like, “what’s fantastic to one is mundane to another.”
So back to the lady… Here she was elated on account of a high school graduation. And there I was, listening and giving her the space to thrill, but for a super quick second I caught a touch of arrogance. Thankfully, virtually as soon as I noticed the arrogance it evaporated and in its place expanded a feeling of compassion. Karuna.
I’m fond of calling a spade a spade, and I don’t think that automatically includes any form of judgement. It’s very clear to me that the woman and I are horses of two very different colors. Depending on her karmic load, and mine, it may be more than another lifetime or two before she’s the kind of person I am, or before I learn the things she knows. Of course, it might only be another year or less-all of that depends entirely on our respective karmas and individual efforts. But for this moment, I’m where I am and she is where I was. Simple as that.
I think what I felt must somehow be similar to what a parent feels when a child is exited about learning how to jump rope. The parent knows this is something they’ve been able to do for years and that this activity is super normal. But they also are filled with a kind of joy and love because of the development and advancement they see in the small human before them.
The whole experience was very humbling to me. A little embarassing, because part of that experience was arrogance/ignorance. But also warming because I have a better idea of where my development has taken me, and where I might be headed.
Sri gurubhyo namaha!