It was the smallest thing really. A little bump on the road. I was driving north on I-36 yesterday when I saw a little clod hit and spun around by the car in front of me. As I passed I saw more clearly: the tiniest bunny stunned by the blow, upright in the center of the opposite lane, its eyes wide with shock, looking into mine. For that one split second as I passed him, our eyes locked.
I made the quickest U-turn possible and raced back. But this is a heavily populated highway. By the time I arrived a minute later, the bunny was nothing more than a soft pink mass.
Collateral damage, I thought. Nobody’s fault. The product of a racing world. But my thoughts kept returning to that last glint of life, the wide eyes peering into mine. They kept talking to me about the vulnerable underbelly of our world.
How do we relate to the suffering all around us, if indeed we even see it? In my safe rural world it’s the rabbits and frogs that I find on the road, a deer or owl maimed by a speeding car. These creatures remind me that not far off lies a world of children living untenable lives, families on the run, homeless people with grave illnesses. Not whizzing by, but taking them into my heart, their eyes open me to the wider circle of helplessness that is part of life.
We have veils over our eyes, perhaps for good reason.
Taking in the pain around us can be overwhelming. Sooner or later we must realize it will never go away and make peace with it.
As people on the path of awakening we must vow to alleviate suffering wherever we find it. And truly show up. But suffering goes hand in hand with this life. It is the glove that we will all wear.
Getting familiar with suffering is now on my docket. Looking it in the eyes and not running away. Breathing it in and feeling the pain of animals and children, women and entire species trapped by the crushing wheels of life. Breathing it in and understanding how we will all be under this wheel at one time or another, however brave and adept at life we are. Then breathing out, our still-able bodies and minds sending not pity, but soft arrows of joining, camaraderie, and forgiveness for the dark design in which we all take part.
“Revel in it,” I imagine the creature’s eyes saying to me. “I didn’t get my chance but you have yours now. Take it. Your time will come soon enough.”