Trauma and Compassion

Summer in SeattleWhat if the value of our suffering–its use–is that it gifts us with compassion?

I think all along I have taken the wrong approach. As a writer, I believed I was writing about my suffering. But the truth of suffering is that it is the collective, common experience of our species–and indeed of life.

Akira Kurosawa wrote, “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.” And to look squarely into the face of suffering is to look into life itself.

The great possibility of a story is that it can speak to individual suffering. In a way that helps us recognize the pain common to us all. And then transform this into empathy, connection. And, if the ending is just right, hope.

If I tell a story right, I cease to write about my own suffering and instead reach into other lives. I imagine the suffering of others who are nothing like me. And then, if I can tell the story true, it grows beyond the limits of my own life. To become your truth. And even ours.

Writing, done right, should not be about me at all. At its best, it is an act of compassion. Offered with wide open-heartedness.

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