In “Autobiographical Writings”, Mark Twain remembers his mother, Jane Lampton Clemens.
“She had,” he writes, “a slender, small body, but a large heart — a heart so large that everybody’s griefs and everybody’s joys found welcome in it and hospitable accommodation.”
He tells us that “She always found something….to love” even in the “toughest” of people and animals. “She was the natural ally and friend of the friendless.”
When some in her Presbyterian community took to abusing Satan, she “admitted that Satan was utterly wicked and abandoned”, but also added that Satan was a sinner “just….like the rest.”
Jane’s next thoughts are profound and make us ponder. “….who prays for Satan? Who….has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner who needed it most, our one friend and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one….”
Matthieu Ricard, the Buddhist monk, observes in “Altruism” that “one can feel profound aversion to injustice, cruelty, oppression, fanaticism, and harmful actions, and do everything one can to thwart them, without succumbing to hatred. When one looks at an individual prey to hatred, one should regard him more as a sick person to be cured rather than as an enemy to subdue. It is important not to confuse the sick person with his illness, or a feeling of repulsion for an abominable action with definitive condemnation of a person.”
One of the teachings in Juan Mascaro’s “The Creation of Faith” is: “Those who are bad deserve more love and help: the sick need a physician more than the healthy.”
The 101 years old Eddie Jaku writes, among other things, about surviving the Holocaust (his parents died at the Auschwitz concentration camp) in “The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor”.
He believes that he survived because he had been given “a responsibility to speak about it….a duty to help educate the world about the dangers of hate.” He writes: “….I hate no one, not even Hitler” because he is convinced that “Hate is the beginning of a disease” that “may kill your enemy….but will destroy you in the process too.”
He tells us of “the most important thing” he has learned in life, “the best medicine” that redeems and saves — “the greatest thing…. is to be loved by another person.”
Swami Vivekananda ends a November 1898 letter (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”) to the Maharaja of Khetri with these lines:
“There is only one element in life which is worth having at any cost, and it is love. Love immense and infinite, broad as the sky and deep as the ocean — this is the one great gain in life. Blessed is he who gets it”
In a piece written (“A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-fiction”) for someone who “wanted about 400-500 words ‘on fantasy'”, the wise humorist and writer of fantasy novels, Terry Pratchett begins with these lines:
“You want fantasy? Here’s one…There’s this species that lives on a planet a few miles above molten rock and a few miles below a vacuum that’d suck the air right out of them. They live in a brief geological period between ice ages, when giant asteroids have temporarily stopped smacking into the surface. As far as they can tell, there’s nowhere else in the universe where they could stay alive for ten seconds.
And what do they call their fragile little slice of space and time? They call it real life.”
If we truly comprehend that life (for each of us, and our species) rests on eggshells, the following lines from poets Elizabeth Alexander and W H Auden give us something to ponder over in our relationships with each other — with family, friends, indeed every person, animal, plant, rock, star and planet….
“is not all love, love, love….”(“Ars Poetica #100: I Believe”published in Elizabeth’s collection titled “American Sublime”)
“If equal affection cannot be, Let the more loving one be me.”(“The More Loving One” from W H Auden’s collection titled “Homage to Clio”)