Bearing the Unbearable

Illustration by Ronman Ng

Illustration by Ronman Ng

When you bear witness to someone bearing the unbearable

you recognize that a part of that person has died

the part that couldn’t bear the unbearable.

The person who remains alive is the survivor,

the one willing to include the insufferable as part of her life.


If you ask her if she is happy,

she may consider the question,

and reply Yes


You may ask her if she is sad

and after a moment

she will answer Yes


If you wonder whether she is hopeful

she will respond affirmatively


When you inquire whether she feels hopeless

well, she feels that too.


Everything is embraced by the survivor

All of Life

The astounding, exhilarating beauty

as well as the horrific, heartbreaking injustice

the immense love,

and the deep cruelty

The magnificent mystery of the universe

includes multifarious criminal imperfections


The survivor stands in the presence of what is true

Without dying, without closing off to the whole truth.

If her heart closes she becomes a crippled instrument

for the healing of the world.


There is nothing we can say to assuage the anguish

of those who are tolerating the intolerable.

We can only stand with them, together, as survivors ourselves.

For we are all survivors.

Or we’d be dead. In body. Or in heart.

It is our own suffering, of whatever type,

that turns us into instruments of compassion.

We can stand together as survivors, in love

We can stand together in the presence of what is true,

in awe of the bafflingly thick rich wondrous entirety of phenomenon

We can keep our hearts open in heaven, and in hell,

and allow our hearts to break over and over again.

The cost of armoring our hearts is too great

so we do what we can to relieve suffering,

our suffering, any suffering, all suffering.


An open heart and a clear quiet mind are optimum agents

for cultivating the health and unity of the whole.

We are all part of the same organism, so we can have no enemies.

It is the nature of our beings as individuals

that contributes to and creates the quality of our world

Each breath each of us take affirms the dignity of life, all life,

in the simplest and clearest way possible.

With each breath we can strive for clarity of mind

and share it constructively with each other.

With each breath we can extend our compassion

to all survivors bearing the unbearable.

-jaysi 2014