When I was about six years old, I fell off the swing in the park and skinned my knee. Whether I was shocked or mesmerized, time stopped for me. I recall to this day the beauty of the red blood and the way it fixated my attention. There was no pain. Only arrest.
Then I heard my mother’s voice and the other mothers too, with whom she’d been gossiping on the park bench. It was the shrill cry of my name and the fright incised on her face that seemed to start time going again. Then the pain began. And I started to cry.
Often, I’ve returned to this moment in my memory. And its exquisite stillness and quiet, before the pandemonium. There seems something magical, miraculous about it, as though I managed, unwittingly, to stop time. There was also something sublime, even religious. A brief, if accidental, return to Eden.
I was to recall this incident recently while reading Eckhardt Tolle’s The Power of Now. In which he equates time with pain. And conversely, eternity with joy. I experienced this abstract assertion through my very body. Through the currency of my blood.
We are conditioned to avoid pain, to hide our wounding, physical and otherwise. Like Holden Caulfield, we wish to be catchers in the rye, standing at the edge of the cliff, stopping our children before they fall.
But it is only through the wound, through pain, that our children learn compassion. Literally, “to suffer together.” Though victory, success and recognition are worldly and worthwhile goals, they, without the reminders of our vulnerability, keep us separate and potentially cut off from the rest of humanity.
It is only the pain of the wound, whether a fall or a failure, that reunites us, nourishes us with the balm of human feeling, so we can get up and try again. It is only through the wound that the darkness of our pride is humbled, making room for grace. As Rumi so beautifully wrote, the wound is the place where the light enters you.
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