When Your Heart Is Broken Open

No heart is whole until it is broken open. For when the
heart breaks it expands and as surely as the pain, the love and compassion spill forth does the healing begin.

ho among us can grasp the enormity of the anguish and sorrow that rolls out, wave upon wave from the World Trade Center bombing. Who among us can even grasp the Mystery as it unfolds—linking strangers across the world in the paradox of shock, grief, compassion and love. As the first hours pass and the days begin to unfold we begin to hear the stories of the true mystery that is the heart—the stories of selflessness, of random acts of love and caring, of strangers who, totally unaware of one another moments before, have become connected heart-to-heart as deeply as lovers or relatives. And we hear the stories of an even deeper Mysterium manifesting its presence and connecting humanity through pain and sorrow. Like the story of Ron. 

on, stopped to assist a woman in deep distress—a stranger—who like himself was suddenly a victim of the holocaust of this September morning. Earlier Ron’s sister and niece had boarded a plane for LAX. Happily anticipating their journey the two, mother/sister, daughter/niece were on the plane that became the fire bomb that had hurled Ron into this catastrophe. Sister above, brother below, one dying while the other was fighting to save lives. Neither knowing they were united in this way. And the woman Ron was saving? A stranger but because of the intensity of those hours Ron and this stranger became linked in the Mystery that is life. Ron’s heart—broken open with indescribable sorrow finds his life indelibly inked into the life story of another. The knowledge and memory of his spontaneous, unpremeditated act of courage toward this stranger is somehow balancing the horror of his loss. The stranger, present in the exact moment, needed Ron as much as he needed her and through grace and maybe even fate, they found one another. Her need, his reaching out, will somehow allow him to continue to move forward through the days ahead. Already the news agencies attempting to make sense out of the chaos are asking the question, “How are these two lives linked? And why?” 

ow do any of us ever explain the whys of those events in life that break our hearts wide open, throwing us to our knees or flat on the ground unable to find solace or meaning to pull us through the unendurable. We don’t. We can’t. We probably never will. Our intellects can not wrap around the enormity of the inexplicable without somehow getting so caught up in the details that we become victims rather than participants. In the great Greek tragedies there is a profound lesson that may help us now. It is said that every character, both good and evil, both tragic and romantic—the fool as well as the sage—are needed for the drama to make sense. 

hat is meant by “sense?” Well, 

eart Sense
ur grief always has two dimensions. We grieve for the loss and we grieve for my loss. We feel guilt about our secret knowledge that we are frightened or in confusion about our self because of a loss. We say things like, “What I am concerned about is nothing compared to what has just happened.” This may make head sense but it will never makes heart sense. This is what your heart feels.

hen the unendurable happens we are inclined to feel as if Fate has taken over—that influences beyond human control or understanding are at work, Yet, after every catastrophic event if we are able to gather the stories we soon realize that Destiny, not Fate, is on the move. Nature shows us that the lushness of life has to be replaced by the dying, death and decay if life is to endure. The lesson is easy to take if it is not one of my loved ones cut down prematurely, not my life that becomes deadly and decaying. Yet, there is no life or death that is in vain. 

emember the myth of the Three Fates. Mythology helps the human psyche understand and accept what is too complex or painful to face head-on. What the story of the Fates teaches us is that even as one is cutting a thread of life, as death calls, the other is spinning a new life into being, while the third is weaving all three into the meaning of your life and the tapestry of humankind. 
It is so easy to miss the relatedness—that fate and destiny are linked—that life and death serve the same good. During the aftermath of the WTC attacks I heard the reassurance of this myth as it came alive right here, right now.

ne of the national news channels tells this story. On the morning of the eleventh of September a Child has died in Vanderbilt Hospital in Tennessee. The Thread Cutter has done her part. In the midst of the family’s grief they have donated this child’s liver to the organ transplant program. The Weaver has already begun. The surgeon hears the news of the bombings and that all national air space is closed as he begins to prepare to remove the donated liver. Meanwhile, in Houston, Texas an infant is waiting. Her life suspended by a thread—in critical condition. The donor’s liver is a match and this child’s life depends upon receiving it. The hospital authorities begin to call and ask the Federal Aviation Authority for some direction, for help. The Spinner is holding her thread of new life fast, waiting for the Weaver to pull all these many threads together. A flight crew from the East flies the organ to a hospital in the West. The Texas infant’s thread of life is spun anew—woven into the tapestry that two hours ago was unseen, unanticipated and could not have happened had the WTC bombing not occurred. We are all connected in so many ways-heart to heart, soul to soul, thread to thread. As one heart breaks open another is healed. And, as a heart is healed so another is breaking. Together—all around the world—we are linked, heart to heart and we will heal because of our mutual suffering. 

rief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can, and common sufferings are stronger links than common joys. Alphonse de Lamanine 

he two words we have heard repeated most often during the WTC disaster are, love and God. Sixty-two nations lost citizens in that event. Many nationalities, many doctrines, many ways to call upon God, to offer up prayers and to extend love. The one common bond is the universality of heart centered love. I have no doubt that on this particular September Tuesday thousands who may never have felt a need to turn to God, to allow their hearts to break open to the sustaining love of the Universe did so in spite of themselves. And in so doing as they said the words, “Oh God” they made heart sense. 

here is no such thing as a Holy War. Nor is there any such thing as a black heart. There are unholy wars fought in the name of God and there are intellects so blackened by hatred and ignorance that their deeds are heartless. Over and over we must come to terms with our individual role in the tragedies—how our life makes “sense.” And as we seek answers to these questions we must be prepared to allow our heart to be further broken open. 

...to get from where you are not, you must 
go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy. Elliot

 Excerpts from Paula’s book on the heart’s intelligence by Conari Press. Fall, 2002

© Copyright 2003 Paula M Reeves
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