We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.”
― William Shakespeare
When did compassion become a weakness? When did lumping anyone less fortunate than us into the “Quit Being a Victim” box become socially acceptable? I used to believe that willpower, ego, and determination were all we needed to succeed in the world, that we are all able to overcome anything if we just decided to be strong enough. I am older and wiser now. I now understand that none of us get out of here alive, we are limited by definition: we are human.
Yesterday, I FB posted the above quote from Shakespeare because I was looking for an inspirational quote under the topic “angels” as I prepared to take my wife to the surgery center, another step towards her cure from breast cancer. Some reader, who I’ll admit didn’t know my motivation for posting, launched an unsolicited assault on the Bard and me:
“To Shakespeare and Co.: Sounds like an excuse for not trying harder … Our goal in this world is not to let it go (= let ourselves go), but to strive for perfection in ourselves, which is the sole reason why we are given a brain with which we can think, and the power to chose our paths. Other than that, we bmight as well say we are JUST HERE.”
Dear reader, all of us are “just here.” Aside from suggesting that you try harder to communicate your thoughts in a grammatically precise and sensitive manner, I’d like to say that your premiss is just plain wrong: we are already perfect. We are human.
Some of us live up to your standards, some of us don’t. Some of us are dealt bad hands, some of us are not but we all play the cards we get. In the end, as Shakespeare suggests, we are limited by flesh, we are not angels. For the record, I believe in Angels and the tattoo of one on my chest is a daily reminder that I can ask for help; that there is a power there to help me try harder.
After I brought my wife home from the hospital, I ran out to the super market here in Windermere, an upscale suburb of Orlando. As I drove in to pick up her prescription, there was a family of 4 standing in the parking lot holding up a sign, “We are a family of four, we lost our home, and we need help.” They were trying. As the pharmacist did her thing, I ran around the store, putting together a random order of groceries for the family who stood in the rain, holding a sign. I couldn’t give them a place to stay, or money, but I could do something, I tried.
Judgement is not our job, let’s assume that we are all doing the best we can. Some people have the tools and circumstances to become financially successful, some of us don’t. Some have good health, others have genes that are programmed to invite rouge cancer cells to make themselves at home. It is easy for those of us to don’t have current problems to gloss over those who do by saying they attracted their problems or that they simply didn’t try hard enough. It’s easy to look at those who are working for minimum wage and say that they don’t deserve more pay, some people are proud to say that they have “no sympathy” for those who are struggling, wearing their lack of concern like a badge of honor.
Here in the mortal realms sympathy is actually a good thing, it is that “There but for the grace of God go I,” feeling that keeps us human, that reminds us that we are all limited by flesh, that we are all in this together. And reader, getting back to your erroneous premiss, we are all here. All of us: together. The more we try to be separate, the more we try to show our superiority: the more we prove that we are one. We all have brains, we all have the power to chose our paths, but with limits. The limit is our frailty, our flesh, our mortality.
I use to be immortal, all passion, ego, and drive, nothing was going to get in my way. People were a means to an end, my end was making a lot of money and buying a lot of things. Then life happens, you realize that you aren’t in control of everything. You watch neighbors lose their homes, people you love get sick, and you find out that we are not as in control as we thought. For some of us, getting out of bed for the day is a victory, someone else will earn a Noble Prize today, we all share in these achievements, as we share in each other’s failures. None of us superior to another, none of us qualified to judge, all of us in need of the help of angels.