The Walking Wounded

Though the words are my own, the following thought experiment is sourced from Don Miguel Ruiz's The Mastery of Love.

Imagine you are a visitor to another world populated by a people who for a thousand generations have lived with a painful skin disease. They are born with healthy skin like ours that loves the sensation of touch, but within their first few years of life, sores begin to form just beneath the skin and become painfully infected.

Some lucky families seem less vulnerable to the condition, and their children often come through their early years with only a few minor lesions. However, almost no one makes it to adulthood without a half a dozen serious infections, exposed as they are to hundreds of other afflicted people in their schools and around their communities.

This disease has been a pervasive part of life for so long that it is no longer considered a disease, and no one is looking for a cure. Some have found balms that can help relieve the pain if applied with great discipline, while others believe that trying to treat, or even to acknowledge, the sores is weak and self-indulgent.

Though all but the most wretchedly ill of these people still still crave physical contact, any touch must be performed delicately as the lesions are not easily visible and are often in unpredictable places.

A careless or accidental bump at a dinner party, around the office, or while trying to make love can cause excruciating pain. Even a gentle, loving touch can cause great offense because what feels good to one body can be unbearable to another with different wounds in different places. The people have become so fearful about these collisions and contacts that they often retaliate in kind or even lash out to hurt first if they sense someone is getting too close.

Now imagine you could view, with similar impartiality, the emotional illness on our own planet. That you could see past our camouflage of denial and drama into the wounds poisoning almost every human heart and mind.

We could tend to our wounds; instead most of us have adopted the cultural standard of leaving them to fester while projecting the fear, anger, envy, and grief they cause onto those around us.

Though we have very little power over the wounds we receive, we're all given the power to heal them. The wisdom to overcome our emotional injuries can be found in a hundred places - ancient spiritual tradition, modern science, even the silence of the mountains. It takes strength and courage to apply that wisdom in our darkest corners, but the echos of our healing through generations of humanity may be the greatest gift we can give while on this planet.