NPR had an interesting interview with the geophysicist and spiritual thinker Xavier Le Pichon. I liked some things he said about suffering/community/and humanity. (the whole interview is here http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/fragility/transcript.shtml I am not saying I agree with all of what he says, but some of the things I found helpful.
Le Pichon " first became interested in geology in six months he spent as a child in a concentration camp in French Indochina, modern-day Vietnam. He later helped create the field of plate tectonics and pioneered exploration of plate boundaries in the ocean depths.
He and his wife raised their family in intentional spiritual communities centered around people with mental disabilities"
Mr. Le Pichon: You have this kind of big awakenings when the big catastrophe happens, either a collective one like a war or major accident, but it can be also a tragedy inside the family, not just outside. And they may react in a way that you cannot predict. Sometimes it's very bad. Sometimes it opens them up. So it's something difficult but my experience is that once you enter into this way of, I would call it companionship, you know, walking with the suffering person that has come into your life and that you have not rejected, then your heart progressively gets educated by them. You know, they teach you a new way of being.
Ms. Tippett: Right. Your heart gets educated. I like that.
Mr. Le Pichon: Yes. We have to be educated by the other. Our heart cannot be educated by itself. I mean, my heart cannot be educated by myself.
Mr. Le Pichon: It can only come out of a relationship with others. And if we accept to be educated by the others, to let the other explain to us what happens to them, how they feel, which is completely different from what we feel, and to let yourself immerse into their world so that they can get into our world, then you begin to share something which is very deep. You will never be the person in front of you, but you will have created what we call communion, the capacity to share at a very deep level. And I feel that that is the essence of life and that's what Jesus came to teach us. Learn how to enter into communion with your neighbors, the way he called it, neighbors. And then you will discover something completely new.
HE ALSO HAS AN ESSAY THAT DESCRIBES WHAT HIS DAD WENT THROUGH WHEN HIS MOM HAD ALZHEIMERS--HERE IS A PART--IT IS CALLED "Ecce Homo ("Behold Humanity")"
by Xavier Le Pichon (THE WHOLE THING IS HERE-- http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/fragility/essay-eccehomo.shtml#poem-prudhomme
What my mother and father experienced together during her long and painful illness helps us to understand a little better the nature of this mysterious transformation of relationships which comes when we welcome handicap, suffering and illness. If this welcome is made with dignity and love, the person we welcome becomes the one who leads us into a new deepening of our true humanity. That person changes us deeply as she also changes the nature of the community around them. My mother who had played such an important role during her active life to form the bonds that unified our family had at the end of her painful life an even greater influence in maintaining our unity and in deepening the heart of my father while she appeared to be utterly powerless. One can say that she radiated much more love than what she had received. She had revealed to those who had welcomed her with love a new depth of their humanity. They now better understood that they had a heart and could only find happiness in love