<\body> Stories in America: Solitude & Compassion

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Solitude & Compassion

I've been trying to break my bad habit of reading about and listening to depressing news right before bed, so I decided to pick up a book about peace, solitude and contentment, called "Gift from the Sea," by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The book's messages, which were written more than 50 years ago, are just as pertinent today as they were back then. In light of what's happening in my own backyard, the country and the world, I was especially touched by the following passage:

This photo was taken on the Lost Coast Trail in Humboldt, CA.

The world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts and sufferings even in the outermost circles touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.

But just how far can we implement this planetal awareness? We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world, to digest intellectually all the information spread out in public print; and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused in our hearts and minds. The interrelatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather -- for I believe the heart is infinite -- modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry. It is good, I think, for our hearts, our minds, our imaginations to be stretched, but body, nerve, endurance and lifespan are not as elastic. My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds. I cannot marry all of them, or bear them all as children, or care for them all as I would my parents in illness or old age.

Because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world. An escape process goes on from the intolerable burden we have placed upon ourselves. But can one really feel deeply for an abstraction called the mass? Can one solve world problems when one is unable to solve one's own? Where have we arrived in this process? Have we been successful, working at the periphery of the circle and not the center?

When we start at the center of ourselves, we discover something worthwhile extending toward the periphery of the circle. We find again some of the joy in the now, some of the peace in the here, some of the love in me and thee which go to make up the kingdom of heaven and earth.


At 3/05/2006 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, I can relate to this. I've never seen so many positive reviews on amazon.

At 3/05/2006 9:58 PM, Blogger MJW said...

Rose, this entry on solitude and compassion reminded me, in a way, of a book I read a while back entitled Leaning into the Wind : Women Write from the Heart of the West. I thought you might also enjoy reading it. In it, you will find a lot of the sort of people for whom you may have been searching during your trip through the "so-called 'red states.'" The "Amazon.com" and "Library Journal" reviews, plus the three customer reviews, should give you a small sense of the book's general theme. I found it to be well worth my time.

If you read it (see if you agree with me), wouldn't it be interesting to interview some of the women who wrote stories for the book to see how they are doing a decade or more later?

At 3/05/2006 10:09 PM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

Thanks for the recommendation; I'll pick it up. I didn't spend much time in Nebraska, but I loved the drive...

At 3/06/2006 12:27 AM, Anonymous p said...

This is beautiful. Sweet dreams.

At 3/08/2006 3:57 AM, Blogger Arjun Ramakrishnan said...

the message is beautiful indeed. i think that if we come out of the cocoon of our personal struggle for selfish desires, think of the world around us and start contributing to the world in whatever way we can, then our own life will find its true meaning. herein lies the answer to the question whether we can change the world without changing ourselves. i feel that doing good to others will simultaneously bring a lot of unexpected good to our own lives

At 3/08/2006 10:05 AM, Blogger MJW said...

Rose wrote: "But I loved the drive..."

Of course, you're not serious... ;-)

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on some of the stories in the book. As the first customer review at Amazon implies, not all the stories are excellent; however, most are, and many of them are quite beautifully written.


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