Over the weekend we watched aghast as the turmoil that is the Middle East erupted into unimaginable violence. It was as though a great storm of hatred and greed slammed into that part of the world, and no one in ether government cared about the impacts on the everyday people whose lives were placed in turmoil, or taken. Sadly, the harm caused will likely last several generations.
Yesterday I went to a meeting with a medical specialist. His office is maybe two miles from our home. I had struggled some to get an appointment, and had to drag myself to it, having mixed feelings about the entire venture. As it turned out, there was no parking, except for a solitary Disability slot, which happened to be occupied by a maintenance truck. I ended up parking about a block away, and making my way down a short, steep hill in the heat and humidity. I knew full well I would later be forced to climb up that hill.
When I arrived, a woman was sitting in the waiting area, filling out the inevitable forms. The reception area was not easy to locate so I asked her where I might find it. Having retrieved my forms, I returned to the waiting area and took the only available seat, next to the woman. She looked up, then returning to her forms, and said, “My friend drove me the two hours from my home to here. She went off to do an errand. The people here in this office told me I don’t have an appointment. It wasn’t logged into the system and they are filled this afternoon. I’ll have to come back.”
It was clear that movement was difficult for her. I thought about my proximity to the clinic, my resistance to being there, and the woman’s long, probably painful drive. She phoned her friend and explained the situation. I felt conflicted. The receptionist came and fetched me. My appointment took ten minutes. When I came out the waiting room was empty.
Later, I told my wife about the disorganization of the office, and the plight of the woman. As soon as I did this, I was flooded with remorse. I realized the woman was in much more distress than me, and I live quite close by and can drive myself around. Sure, it was a major production to get an appointment and force myself to go, but we are speaking about an hour of inconvenience rather than a day.
I was caught up in a stormy debate between mind and heart. Each had their reasoning, values, and needs, and they were in deep conflict. From my mind’s point of view I had done the expedient thing, considering I might not be able to force myself to come again. My heart-felt otherwise.
This morning we seem to arrived at a truce, both sides more or less aligned and committed to doing things differently next time. There is no way to undo what was done. Probably, the harm will be fleeting, although harm non the less. Being human is demanding and there is often no obviously correct path. In walking the road I chose, I learned something valuable. It was a good road, although now I imagine the other would have been preferable.
Many years ago, as a young man, I took Bodhisattva vows. At the time the task of living up to those vows seemed noble and honorable, a great and virtuous quest. From where I stand now, the task seems simply very human. We are learning as we go along the road.