The tension of opposites — love and hate, harmony and discord, day and night — holds our world in balance. So too the eternal contest between good and evil, progress and retrogression, marks every phase of human experience. Impelled into life by love, it is no less the duality of quality and expression that keeps us humans sufficiently in balance to flower, fruit, and die — and flower again in season: "Like corn, a mortal ripens and falls, and like corn, is born again" (Katha-Upanishad, I.i.6).
This repetitive procession of birth, growth, death, and resurgence is nature's surest way of perpetuating her species and, indeed, the planet itself. In our human kingdom we see the identic pattern: continual death of form insuring renewal of spirit. Since nature is as perfect — and as imperfect — as are her human, animal, and plant children, imperfections are not faults or failures, but anomalies, differences, part of our growing experience. Those who intuit this truth live lives of serenity and fulfillment. The validity of this was borne home to the Kaufman family in the 1970s when their son Raun during his first year began sliding into autism. They discovered that our world is full of "special children" — some born impaired physically, others mentally and/or emotionally, still others having become "special" through severe illness or accident. A fair percentage are diagnosed autistic.
"Raun was like a symphony without notes — like a song without words." Inarticulate, withdrawn, totally self-focused, this beautiful little boy was a mystery child his loving and caring parents could not reach. Professionals were consulted every few months, and the diagnosis, vague at first, finally was autism. There was no hope of cure, they were told, for this was a lifelong disability; place the child in an institution where trained personnel can help him develop what minimal skills he may have.
Barry and Samahria Kaufman chose differently: instead they would enter Raun's world and identify with his need, whatever the consequences — a profoundly compassionate choice. With their two young daughters, they entered into a conspiracy of love and acceptance. But the boy, encapsuled in an impenetrable shield of self-absorption, remained insensible to any influence not self-generated. Drawing upon their profoundest resources of patience, dedication, and wisdom, at length they observed small, incremental steps of awareness in their son — awareness of his mother first, then of others, as gradually his focus of attention shifted from himself to other people and things.
After months and months of feeling out his new environment, Raun apparently made a conscious decision to live permanently in this world, where humans experience love and warmth, and can aspire to the heights of achievement if they will. By this time he was four years old. The Kaufmans had witnessed their little son's "second birth," his autism dropping away like autumn leaves, his future bright with promise. Would this be permanent? They did not know. The transformation seemed no less than a miracle.
Learning in the meantime of the hundreds, possibly thousands of "different" children systematically being warehoused in institutions for the hopeless and incurable, thereby becoming even more isolated and warped, in 1979 Barry Neil Kaufman wrote the book Son-Rise. NBC turned it into an award-winning television special aired worldwide. It was like rain to a parched land for hundreds of families. In order to meet their need, in 1983 Kaufman founded the Option Institute and Fellowship at Sheffield, Massachusetts, which not only works specifically with special-needs children and their parents, but also seeks to improve the quality of life for others overcome by adversity.
Eleven years later Kaufman wrote Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues (H. J. Kramer, Inc., Tiburon, California, 1994,170 pages, cloth ISBN 0-915811-53-7, $20.00; paperback ISBN 0-915811-61-8, $12.95) dedicated to "all the special children" who so often are cast aside, their lives seen as "tragedies." A Foreword by Raun, then a sophomore in a prestigious college, is a glowing tribute to his parents' courage to "try" against the advice of "experts." They and their daughters dared the impossible and proved that love and acceptance can win out over seemingly insurmountable barriers. The Miracle Continues also chronicles the flowering of several children once trapped behind impairment. The author and his equally remarkable wife are testimony to the power and reality of love, unconditionally shared, to build bridges of trust over which "hurt" souls may cross.
Nature ever gives value for value. The challenges faced by families with "special children," whatever the physical or mental deprivation, often find their emotional and physical resources drained, especially when the child shows little or no progress. The natural tendency is for parents and relatives to feel that they are somehow to blame. We dare not be judgmental in these matters. Every individual is unique, with his own background of experience going back scores of millennia into the past, for humanity is not just a recent phenomenon on this planet. Nor may we discount the potency of love and devotion to exert a healing and beneficent influence, however invisible the response may be.
It is curious that no question as to why this little boy, and the family also, should have had to experience this trauma seems to have arisen in the author's mind — possibly because of the futility of asking it, for who can answer it? Certainly, no one knows what may have occurred in previous lives — a great many people today consider reincarnation to be the most reasonable explanation of the seemingly unjust happenings in our lives. We venture the thought that possibly this particular soul may have chosen his present life situation in order to clear the slate for the future, and in so doing experience firsthand what this particular birth opportunity could afford him and his family in deepening compassion for those who suffer.
Our long line of births and deaths is our warranty of eternal growth and becoming. We are, all of us, gods-in-the-making, with a magnificent destiny before us. It is love, attraction, magnetic lines of force, that bring us into being, keep us here in orbit, and bear us to the "other shore." This is assured, for though a person may die alone, bereft of friends, always our higher self is with us, and at the nodal points of birth and death is particularly close.
How fortunate that we do not know the causes behind our lives, or those of others. Such knowledge could deflect the soul from its true purpose, which is to bring the compassionate presence of our inner divinity more fully into our daily relationships, and thus be, in however minor a degree, a "light unto the world." "Love ye one another" is still a new commandment, so little has it been tried. It only needs putting into practice to prove its worth. This is not an impossible task, for are we not made in the image of the Divine?
(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Theosophical University Press)