“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.”
Emotions evolve over time. As once we may have been untouched by certain things, life has a way of making us feel as we age. Or, it can be the opposite. We can just as easily “unfeel” as we age.
Life may harden some of us, or soften others, but it is only by the touch and shaping of experience and growth are our emotions molded into what we carry with us each day. That is to say, where once we would never conceive of shedding a tear, we may find ourselves crying like the rain.
This is the sum of our experience here.
I can recall being younger and not giving much thought to watching movies or reading books. I did this for enjoyment and rarely did I respond emotionally to heartfelt scenes or words.
Now, I can’t say this trend has continued.
Now, tears well up in my eyes at just the slightest hint of pure kindness or compassion, or of honor, courage and selflessness. I notice this is particularly heightened with scenes of innocent children, extraordinary valor, or of random gestures which speak directly to love; to the heart of life.
My own personal empathy has grown tenfold over the years. Where once it seemed non-existent, as though I couldn’t quite place myself in another’s shoes, now it is a profound part of me and my direct experience of life.
But not all can say that this is a trend that happens with age, as sometimes the reverse is also true.
Some grow cold to life.
I often recall the story I was told of the baby elephant who is chained to a post. At a young age the elephant isn’t strong enough to break the chain, and he learns over time that he can’t break the chain no matter how hard he tries.
He remembers this always. And this is why, as a fully grown elephant, he doesn’t even try to break the chain, even though he could probably snap it right in two.
Some behaviors we learn by watching others. Others we learn at random times in a myriad of ways. But some, like the young elephant, we learn by trying and failing over and over again.
But there are many ways we learn.
If someone has constantly been rejected, shunned or left unloved for most of their life, the world tends to harden them. They may have once been the most loving, compassionate, kind and gentle soul about. But as the wind of life weathers and wears him down, he becomes diminished, coarse and broken.
He no longer tries to break the chain.
As we all travel through this life, it is our true duty to pick those up around us who are in greatest need of love’s wonder. We should show them that becoming cold has not made their heart shrink in size, but instead made to double how deeply it can be filled.
We can all do this.
All of us are capable of igniting compassion, of lighting the spark that brings joy to those around us. It is not a skill that we must acquire, but a true gift that we are all endowed with upon birth.
Let us use this gift to break the chain.
And may we all see that love is the only force we ever need.