On the inner journey of self-discovery and self-development, the call to service often comes when you are ready to reach out to others less fortunate than yourself. Of course, that’s the social gospel version. On the inner journey the ‘others’ appear lost, confused, mired in illusions. Whether it’s the recently dead, wretched in ignorance, wandering in some fog of despair, or the living, wounded by the cruelties of life’s seeming injustices, the energies of compassion draw us to their plight.
We feel compelled to interact, drawing on whatever part of our accumulated wisdom seems right for the job at hand. Relevant information for the confused dead, sympathy and encouragement for the guilty dead, mercy for the self-condemned dead.
For those living in despair, tormented by doubts, angry at the deity of their tribe, the god they assume is responsible for their trials, we try to reassure with the knowings we’ve personally uncovered – that suffering has a meaning, that it has strength and growth hidden within it, that, as the song goes, all things must pass.
The personal experience factor is what can often cinch it. If you have explored, adventurously perhaps not fearlessly, if the confusion that once was thought to be your epitaph is now a faded memory, if you have suffered, sought refuge and then survived to smile another day, if your wanderings in spirit have imprinted their details on your consciousness, then your efforts have a better chance of being rewarded, – a smile, an agreement, an accommodation to your suggestions.
Grief and suffering can be the most challenging to deal with. Often our assistance is passed over or rebuffed. Many are so enmeshed in their condition, be it psychic, physical or emotional, that they cannot be reached by even the most persistent among us. Though they are never abandoned, they have to be left to swim through the depths of their despair and self-loathing until they reach the shallows of their own exhaustion, which may take years.
Such is the power of their anger/fear/self-condemnation that they can fashion an abode within it, one where visitors are generally not welcome, unless they are willing to share the melancholy illusions of the victim.
Learning that we cannot actually help some of these sufferers, at least in the time frame we assume practical, can be something of an uphill battle. In those abodes pain, despair and anger can thrive, and the state we think of as ‘misery loves company’ can assume the reins until and beyond death. As much as we wish to assist the suffering we find we actually cannot, and then accepting that temporary defeat is the lesson to be learnt.
Not everyone can be saved, not everyone can be enlightened, not everyone can chuckle at the vicissitudes of life. Feeding the hungry and housing the homeless is often quite do-able, given a measure of political will. But lightening the load of illusions on the psyches of the deluded and devoted, that’s whole different ball game. Are they being tricked, ridiculed or robbed? Those are the questions you will have to deal with as you navigate that particular learning curve. I wish you luck, but what you really need is patience and self-forgiveness.