Once, a long time ago, I was witness to a hit and run. Never really saw the car, but I was the man who stopped to help the victim. She remained conscious and I remained calm, all the while telling her that things were going to be just fine. I knew they weren’t. She was bleeding from her eyes and ears and was concerned about her husband getting upset she was going to miss work that day. I took off my coat and gently placed it over her, worried that the cold, snowy ground was going to compound problems of shock. The collision was so hard that her shoes bounced off my windshield some forty feet away, so my gut feeling was that there was much more injury than could be diagnosed by casual observation. I continued a simple reassuring conversation with her, never letting on what I really thought. My only goals were to keep her conscious and to try and stop her from panicking. Within minutes the paramedics showed up. Her condition in this short span had already showed signs of deterioration. The blood flow from her injuries was increasing and she had lost her eyesight. I never asked her what her name was. I guess I didn’t need to. They whisked her off, and I continued to work, wondering if she was even going to live. Seventeen years later, I still wonder.
What behavior marks the pinnacle of our aspirations? That morning I spent ten minutes lying to a total stranger, and yet at the time I knew I’d done the right thing. That morning I treated someone differently than I might have wanted them to treat me, and looking back, I wouldn’t hesitate doing the same thing again. That morning, though tragic for someone else, forced me to abandon what I normally thought of as proper conduct and embrace a much more powerful idea, kindness.
The “Golden Rule” that all of us are familiar with is something I cannot fully endorse anymore. It is a good idea and a great place to start, but it can be abusive and heartless if practiced with too much passion. I am forty-eight years old. I carry no shame with my age and I never will. For one, I’ve never associated how old I am with who I am. Now I ask you, just because I carry this belief close to my heart, does this give me free rein to ask all who cross my path what their age is? There is no doubt that this is indeed treating others the way I want to be treated, but the very idea of doing this is selfish and inconsiderate. The “Golden Rule” applies in this situation only when I change the angle of approach by generalizing the moment; would I want a total stranger asking me a question I was unprepared or unwilling to answer? Of course not.
The second situation that seemed to violate my ethics all those years ago was lying. My heart knew this was a circumstance where the outcome could easily end with the death of the person I was talking to. Yes, it did cross my mind; what I would want to hear if the roles were reversed? If I felt the end might be near, would I like the chance to say goodbye to those I loved? Would I want to express a final thought? Would I want to ask forgiveness for things I could no longer correct? These are harsh questions and not to be lightly asked when a life hangs in the balance. I suppose if death were eminent, that there was no chance living, then yes, by all means I would want the truth. Even then I suppose I’d want it tempered with reassurance and faith that what awaited was not to be feared. I had no idea what lay in store for this woman an hour from then, but I had a grasp of what the immediate future held. Instead of handing her the facts, I opted to give her nothing but hope. It wasn’t just for her, but to a small degree, me as well. I had to share a belief that things were okay, if nothing else so that she could hang on long enough for those who could bring real aid to have a better chance.
One of my mentors says, “When facing the choice to be right or to be kind comes up, choose kindness.” This means never saying to someone “I told you so.” There are of course times that require a blunt approach, but they always seem to come before any given incident, not after. I feel potentially negative honesty is best used as a warning. It also comes in handy to point out unrecognized acts of self-destruction, but even this is still nothing more than a warning to not repeat oneself. Basically, I believe that “Honesty precedes, while compassion follows.”
To live compassionately is my goal. To be empathetic (not sympathetic) towards all I meet is the life I demand of myself. To align with another individual’s priorities, even for just a moment, erases my ego. I cannot be “self-centered” when I become “they-centered.” This is a blessing of the highest sort. All the pain, anguish, bitterness, hostility, angst, regret, and fear that had so effectively eroded my life was the direct result of the storms of my selfishness. The peace that compassion continues to feed me, strengthens me. May it strengthen all of us.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood
Gee whiz….I hope that at some point in the future (if this article ever gets read again) that those who choose to do so will continue into the comments section. You’ve added greatly to what is being said here and have provided even more leverage for those who may not recognize the “moment” when it calls upon them. Did the universe place me where I was needed most that morning? Yes. Would I have thought I was prepared to handle such an incident if I had prior knowledge of it? No. There is a universal confidence that guides all of us, pushing us toward our limits, and it knows our potential better than we do. Life is funny. When I project ahead and wonder what might be encountered I envision a bumpy, turbulent terrain; but when I look back all I see is the smooth, perfect, unblemished path that really had no obstacles in it to begin with. THIS is the seed of faith to me. Knowing that my purpose is not to struggle as I move forward, but to be the instrument of the cosmos that takes dis-order and transforms it to harmony. Most people seem to try and live backwards from this philosophy, and they do their best paint the past as horrible and regrettable. Someone else could have easily taken the same incident I went through and sold it as the worst experience of their lives. Of course I do not wish to be put in situations of trauma but it’s nice to know that “something out there” believes I can not only handle the moment, but come to appreciate it over time. Your comments are most enjoyable and I look forward to more.
I couldn’t have said this better! I agree absolutely and totally! Thank you for recognizing your journey for what it is meant to be. Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for allowing random strangers to add their novels to the mix! I hope others come and share their stories too! I love hearing them! 🙂
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First of all, I’m glad you told me to read this article. I was near tears just within the first paragraph. (It also reminded me of a personal story my husband experienced, very similar to yours.) I myself have never witnessed a human in their very last moments. The closest I’ve come to feelings of this magnitude was from my 2-year internship at the morgue with the Medical Examiner. I examined bodies in several states: from natural deaths, to fires, to suicides, to homicides – even child abuse. As you can imagine, your mind is triggered into analyzing many different aspects of reality as we know it. Still yet, I feel your experience was much more “traumatic” in comparison. There is something far more prolific about watching the Life Essence of a human being exiting their physical vessel than forensically examining the cold remains long after the fact. Anyway, I need to work on my brevity… Moving on!
Second of all, I found myself smiling when I read of your process of “poking holes” in the evidence of “The Golden Rule.” I very much agree with you that certain “truths” that we currently strive by in this society are quite outdated. (Heck, they’re mostly lip service anyway.) I agree that you have a case for the Golden Rule being outdated as well. Here is my quick opinion: we live a multi-dimensional universe. Being such, it is hard to point out ANY “Absolute Truth.” Truth is merely a point of perspective. For example, less mature humans have a hard time understanding abstract concepts, such as empathy. For them, it is easier for them to think in terms of “Would I appreciate being treated this way?” than to actually transplant their consciousness within the complex consciousness of another individual. So who is right? They both are. It just seems as if you yourself have transcended the Golden Rule mentality to that of empathy (which is not just being conscious of how YOU feel, but being conscious of how you would feel if you actually were the OTHER person).
I like that you imply that empathy IS more complex and precise than the Golden Rule, because I agree, but also because you are acknowledging another aspect of Higher Truth, which is Free Will. Each individual is undeniably entitled to their own sense of free will – NOT what we have decided is good for us and thus must be imposed on another. For you, in your last moments, you feel as if your preference would be the truth of the situation: You’re dying… fast. However, I believe you sensed with that woman that perhaps her preference may have differed from yours (give intuition some credit here), and that what served her spirit most was comfort, compassion, and kindness. Thus, though your preferences differed, you made the empathetic shift into becoming what she needed in that moment.
Last, I like that you mentioned that part of why you were acting as if everything was ok was for your own benefit. You’re courageous for having admitted that. I say this because, as you alluded within this same piece, people like to make an enemy of the concept of “selfishness.” I disagree with this practice. Since I see EVERYTHING as an extension of the God Consciousness, I see use in everything. For example, try to name ONE THING you’ve ever done on this planet that you didn’t, somehow, deep down, receive some sort of inherent “pay off” for doing. I bet you can’t. I know I can’t. We are creatures motivated by our desires. In that moment with that dying woman, you both shared the desire for peace. Therefore, the actions in that moment were chosen as a measure to uphold and garner peace. It was an act rooted in “selfishness” that was also one of selfLESSness. Again, though this seems contradictory, it is one-in-the-same, dependent upon your perspective. In that moment, your mindset was not purely individualistic. You were also focused on the Whole, the Sum, the Collective, the We-Consciousness. You thought about your own sanity, sure, but you also sensed and acted upon hers as well. (As a side note, in the past, when you felt your selfishness was ONLY nasty, rude, inconsiderate, etc… think of what you’ve been able to become today as a byproduct of having lived that way yesterday! There is a reason for gratitude, even amidst the boughs of selfishness!)
I suppose my “bottom-line” here is that you were her angel that day. You were able to expand your mind in such a way to align with the Higher Purpose of the moment. You and she co-created that moment so that each of you received some marked benefit for each or your spiritual expansions. Just from reading this post of yours, I can see the immense wisdom you gained from that experience. This was beautiful! Thank you!
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I really like “honesty proceeds, while compassion follows” good stuff!
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