Portrait

The human condition, the sum of the universal underpinnings of our unique life experience, is far too rich and filled with subtleties to be amenable to a single portrait.

For it is true that humanity is a miracle beyond imagination, a wonderful statistical impossibility. Each of us is, within humanity, a further statistical impossibility. Appreciation of this truth brings wonder, joy and awe in response to life. But things are not so simple that this is the only view that can be instructive.

Because it is just as true that when we look with clear sight at ourself from the viewpoint of our future-self, our better or higher self, what we will see will instead resemble, in an important way, the picture that accompanies this post. And appreciation of this truth may bring acceptance, patience, compassion and forgiveness.

Blind man carrying a paralyzed man.

Like this pair of men–the blind carrying the paralyzed–every one of us is made up of aspects, elements, parts, or capacities that are to some degree injured, wounded, damaged, limited. These parts must rely on one another to hobble along and get by.

What poignant beauty there is in this superficially unsettling image…It is a both a mirror for us, and a portrait of one’s fellow man: wracked with disability, coping; paralyzed, moving still; blind, yet finding one’s way; separate, cooperating; suffering, struggling–challenged, but living life as it is, not as we would wish it to be.

This image shows simple, practical, everyday love binding incomplete parts into a functional whole. This is the alchemy that makes meaning, and forges the humble triumph of another day out of what is.

And it is an image of a fractal pattern repeated at all scales of human existence. It represents the individual, made up of wounded heart, incomplete mind, mortal body, limited senses–together engaged in the magnificent struggle to make it through life with dignity and purpose. Each of us has our own unique pattern of scars and defects, our own signature disabilities, but the fact that we are this way is something we share with everyone we will ever meet or know, as well as those we never will.

It reflects marriage, the family too, with imperfect souls leaning on one another, moving forward. It reflects our societies, where there are weak and strong–winners and losers–only when your vision obscures what is plainly there to be seen.

Love, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, patience, friendship; of self, of others, of existence itself; as abstract puzzle pieces these will never quite fit together right.

Sometimes, to see the way forward we need to set the map aside and just look at what is there. See. In seeing–simply seeing what really is–understand through immediate and intuitive experience, and act or react to that reality in a sane and natural way. That is virtue.

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