Heartaches Build Bridges

Maureen Simpson

Compassion speaks: "Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?"

Those whose hearts are filled with compassion could quickly answer "no" to these two questions because they would have a fellow-feeling and sympathy for the sufferings and sorrows of others. Not many of us, however, would answer "no" truthfully.

Compassion is the goal of every soul. The paths to reach it differ with each, but all paths include some sorrows and heartaches along with the joys. It is human to want to avoid the unhappy experiences of life, but in such avoidance we discover sooner or later that we bypass our goal of compassion. How can we have fellow-feeling for the sorrows of others without having had some comparable experiences sometime, somewhere in our own long evolutionary cycle of soul-growth?

Our arm around the shoulder of a bereaved and saddened friend is especially warm and tender if we, too, have lost someone dear. We know how he feels. We put real meaning into it when we counsel another not to judge others too severely when he has been wronged, because we remember in our own lives the black marks of injury to the hearts of others, which now we would gladly give some of our life's blood to undo.

The possibility or actual experiencing of heartache should not depress us, because for every loss there is a gain, and out of each heartache and soul-racking ordeal there comes a deeper understanding of others. This brings soul-growth, which is the only purpose of manifested life.

You might say that this attitude toward sorrow is too lofty, is unrealistic in our modern world. But is it? Let us analyze those things that human society places great values upon: health, beauty, home, married bliss, children, wealth, fame, and service to others. Of all of these, only the last — service to others — is permanent in its action and effect. Just one atom bomb could wipe out every human possession of ours in a moment's time; but nothing, atom bombs included, could wipe out the spiritual joy we have gained from our spontaneous service.

So let us lay up lasting treasures in our storehouse of life, accepting cheerfully the bitter with the sweet. Let us not fear or resent the sorrows, for truly they are our tuition.

Heartaches build bridges of sympathy to span the distance between our understanding heart and the hearts of our fellow-pilgrims along the Path.

(From Sunrise magazine, December 1953; copyright © 1953 Theosophical University Press)

Happiness — what is it? I say it is neither virtue nor this thing or that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing. — J. B. Yeats

Theosophical University Press Online Edition