Through the news I am aware of the destruction being reaped by Hurricane Sandy. Where there is destruction there tends to be hurt – people who are hurt and hurting.
We hurt. We hurt in the sense of experiencing physical pain like that of a twisted ankle. We hurt as in the sense of experiencing emotional pain when it occurs to us that we are looked down upon, excluded, lost a loved one…… We hurt, that is simply what is so and goes along with being human.
What is our default setting towards hurt?
We do not like to hurt. I say our idea of the perfect life is life without hurt. So we go to great lengths to avoid being hurt: we want to survive AND not be hurt. We want to insulate ourselves from hurt. Furthermore, we do not see any value in being hurt – hurt shows up for us as purely negative.
Is hurt purely negative?
Is hurt purely negative? Is that the way it has to be? Do we have any choice in the matter of how we act towards and use hurt? I say that we do. I say that there is another way to be with, and stand in relation to hurt.
I say that hurt can be the access to the possibility of humanity, of connection to our fellow human beings, and of contributing to a world that works. I got present to this possibility yesterday, let me recount what happened.
Yesterday, reluctantly, I told my eldest son that I would not be able to go with him (today) to see the latest Bond film that he was eagerly waiting to see with me. He got that I am ill and not in a position to go.
Later, my wife told me that this son of ours (17 years old) had agreed to accompany our youngest (daughter) on her ‘trick and treating’ rounds on Halloween (today). That showed up as shock for me as the two of them do not get along well. And my oldest does not show up as someone who is into ‘trick and treating’. Why did my eldest agree?
Hurt. My wife told me that when she told him that our daughter had no-one else then my eldest agreed to accompany his sister. Why? Because he knows the experience of being alone. He knows the experience of being excluded. His experience of his later school years was that of being alone, being excluded, being without reliable friends. Given being present to that experience he could empathise with his sister (humanity), seek her out and tell her that he will take her ‘trick/treating’ (connection and contribution).
I took a look at my life. The hurt of being called a “Paki” and being spat upon (at school) left me with a lived understanding of the impact of intolerance. And it allowed me to be a stand for tolerance towards my fellow human beings. To this day, I am proud of the fact that a fellow student and friend chose me as the first person to share his secret – that of being gay. When I asked him why he chose me? He told me that he knew I would continue to be his friend and accept him. I remember the hurt that goes along with being small/powerless and being made to do whatever the authority figures (especially my father) wanted me to do irrespective of my needs, my feeling, me desires for my life. And this experience of hurt enabled me to experience the hurt of my fellow human beings and thus be a stand for human dignity and freedom. Which kind of explains why I chose not to have an arranged marriage. Why I am a life member of Anti-Slavery. Why I placed my children in Montessori education and have encouraged them to speak their minds from the time they were born….. And why I strive to treat my fellow human beings as equals. Do I always ‘get it right’? No. Am I a stand for tolerance-freedom-fairness-equality? Yes.
Hurt as access to possibility and transformation
Hurt is hurt. And to be in the world it to live at risk and that includes the risk of being hurt. That is simply what is so. What is also so is that our stance towards hurt – how we interpret it, how we use it – is not given. We have a say in the matter of how we stand in relation to hurt. You and I can use our hurt and the hurt of our fellow human beings to reach out and connect with one another and be a source of contribution to one another.
Which brings me back to Hurricane Sandy. I hope that we as human beings will reach out and connect with those of us who are hurting right now in the USA. And I hope that those who are experiencing hurt in the USA will reach out, connect and be a source of contribution who live outside of the USA and are hurting. You can say that I am a dreamer!
And finally when we use our hurt to put our humanity into the game of life, to connect to our fellow human beings and to be a source of contribution we transform our relationship / orientation / experience towards our own hurt. Put differently, We can recontextualise our hurt: give it a new meaning, see it in a new light, even see it as a positive. Perhaps, even something that we would not choose to change even if we were given the opportunity to change it.