Whist With the Ladies

Every week I play whist with the Ladies. It started in February of the winter before last. The one where even hardy New Englanders nearly lost it. So much snow, such bitter cold. But an afternoon of whist, we discovered, soothes even the most weary of souls and so every week we met to play, forgetting, for a little time, that there was five feet of snow piled up and that the temperature would go down (again) to minus twenty that night.

Now it’s spring and the leaves are that fresh green that is not yet tired of being green, the birds are calling out their territory, and we play our weekly whist with the doors and windows open.

The Ladies are not young; they have middle-aged children and grown grandchildren and often the conversation as we eat our treat before the game begins is about doctor’s visits or who died. This is not as grim as it sounds, because the Ladies have a solid and sensible cognition of living: things happen, you deal with it, and look for the good.

Recently, I was talking on the phone to one of the Ladies and complaining about something that threw off my carefully prepared schedule. On I went about the list I had made—a list I was proud of—for each day’s activities that now had to be all changed because of this one thing. She listened, making the occasional sympathetic noise. Then she told me about her day. “I went to the funeral today of a friend of mine.”

A pause.

“So things are not as bad as they could be.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. She laughed too. It was the perfect antidote to my vexation.

Vexing things are a part of life; death is a part of life. And really, the most important thing is to enjoy what you’ve got when you’ve got it, which in my case, most certainly includes whist with the Ladies.

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What’s at Stake

This creature, Trump, has a following and I, along with millions of others, struggle to understand why.

This is what I have come up with:

I think about Pope Francis and the thing that he exhibits so strongly—compassion. Having compassion means you’ve suffered some or more than some and you’ve come out the other side with a sense of humility. Because you understand what suffering is and how it forges bonds with the rest of humanity–because  everyone suffers.

Compassion is a state of empathy. By developing compassion, you acknowledge the interconnectedness of all beings.

Non-compassion, or hate in the general vernacular, is the opposite of interconnectedness. It always arises from fear. Always. And fear is the state of feeling oneself alone, powerless, not connected. It is a primal emotion and it is part of our reptilian brain, the one that controls our fight or flight responses, our heartbeat, our breaths—the basic responses that keep us alive.

Our frontal cortex is our reasoning brain and the reason we can develop other traits beyond simply survival—like compassion. Everyone with a frontal cortex has the capacity to develop compassion, but it is a trait that will wither without nourishment.

When life becomes suffering, as it inevitably does at times, ask yourself: do you strive to learn from that suffering, thereby developing compassion and connectedness with others, or do you stay mucked about in the primal instinct of fear—blaming others and outside situations for your suffering?

Compassion unifies; fear divides. That’s pretty much it.