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If we think of ourselves as an introvert or an extrovert it does not really matter. In the end, we are all inward beings with a deep, rich, painful, and complex life that is hidden from those around us. The most outgoing of people interpret, react, and speak from their inner core. Our perspective is unique to each individual and the only way this can often be communicated is through words. Though I believe the bulk of our communication is non-verbal, yet without speech and the ability to express ourselves verbally, the feeling of isolation would be strongly felt I believe by the majority.
Our smiles, the look in our eyes, how we stand or sit in front of another, and eye contact, all give information about how we feel towards the one in front of us. Yet verbal communication is unique to humans, at least in its sophistication and depth, so this ability can enrich communication ten-fold.
However, in spite of our ability to communicate on many levels, there is often the feeling in people of being apart, unseen, misunderstood, and isolated. Many people can go through times of deep suffering and inner darkness and have no way of communicating it to anyone. So they go through life forcing an image of themselves onto others that is false. Smiles that hide pain, laughter that covers over depression, and simulating love when in fact they may feel nothing inside. A person can dress in the brightest colors when in reality the world is nothing but different shades of grey and black to them.
Chronic illness can push people to withdraw from others. It is hard for many to show compassion or concern for people who have a chronic condition. Those who are well, or do not have some problem that is ongoing and hidden from view, may find it impossible to respond to those they know and love, who have a chronic condition. Illness can make the sufferer preoccupied with their symptoms and suffering and constantly talk about it to everyone they know, or at times, with anyone that gives them any attention at all. This can drive those who know them away, for it can be both overwhelming as well as fatiguing. It can be an impossible situation. We are all limited in how much attention, compassion, and empathy we can give to others. It is in fact often easier to show kindness to a stranger, who will need help only once, than to a family member or friend who demands a great deal of time and attention.
The book titled “The invisible man” intrigued me when I was young. I thought at first it would be great to be invisible and to go through life unseen. Now I believe differently. I would think most people have had experiences wherein they felt as if everyone was looking through them, as if they were not there at all.
Carol Burnett is a great comic and I believe her comedy show is one of the best ever produced. She has some poignant characters that she would portray on her show and for me, they were painful to watch….though yes, she did make me laugh as well.
She had a skit about a woman who no one would ever remember or actually see. She was with a friend at a restaurant and she was trying to explain how no one noticed her. While she was talking to her companion, her friend, was at the same time looking at the menu.. When she looked up, she acted startled and surprised when she saw Carol sitting there and she asked her when she arrived. She forgot she came in with her. Nor did she remember the conversation that Carol began before she started to look at her menu. Then the waiter came and took the order of her friend, and then when Carol tried to give hers, the waiter just walked off, he did not see her. It was both sad and funny. In the end, Carol decided to trip the waiter.
So she did, and the waiter tripped, then a table went over, then another, and in the end, the whole restaurant was in a shambles. When the waiter got up, Carol was waiting to be yelled at, anything to get attention…. but no one noticed her, and to make matters worse, her friend, again forgot she was there. People thought it was funny because they understood the situation. Most have been there at least once in their lives and they remembered it. We can laugh at the pain of others, in a manner that is not cruel or unfeeling, if we understand even in a limited way how excruciating it can be. Humor is a safe way to reveal aspects of our human condition as well as our struggles that are universal. It can also be used to push people further into feeling unseen.
The ‘Golden Rule’ is perhaps the way that we heal one another. Humor can bring us to a point where we can laugh in an empathic way at our condition. The “Golden Rule” gives us a way to respond. Knowing we have been there, or even worse, that we will be there again can deepen our union with others. This bit of self-knowledge can lead us to be there for others when they are going through a rough patch in their lives; or a time of deep alienation.
For those who have faith, or are on a spiritual path, or even better (in my opinion), have both, know that they are never alone. In prayer and meditation this understanding that we are truly ‘seen’ and ‘understood’ can be a healing factor in their lives. The experience of being invisible, isolated, and ignored, is an illusion that can be dealt with by having a deep loving relationship with the infinite. It is then that the Golden Rule may come to new life when we see that all are ‘seen’ by the infinite. This concept of being seen and known is not based on being watched from some outside vantage point. No, it is something deeper and more intimate, more life-giving than many understand or expect when they begin their journey towards the infinite-Br.MD


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