The Hard Heart Syndrome!
Over the course of a lifetime lived in a corner of the world that is full of conflict, war, and death, it sometimes happens that people get a condition that I will call “hardening of the heart”: this is not a medical condition but it is more of a psychological condition or syndrome that gradually diminished one’s apathy and compassion and that makes a person indifferent to the agony of witnessing so much injustice, so much violence, and so much pain. It is also a condition that makes people selfish, hey, survival in dire times requires self-protection, and self-protection requires a big dose of self-love.
I write this because of a seemingly insignificant incident that happened last week and that got me thinking about starting to reverse the process of the hardening of my heart in order to really feel human again, not only that, but I wanted to remember how a younger version of me experienced life with a fully functioning heart. So I am writing this blog entry as a totally transparent exercise in self-examination!
It’s just a bear!
Some friends and I went on a little road trip to a mountain village and visited a little wild animal shelter run by a couple who have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness about wildlife in Lebanon (the story of this shelter is very important and I may write about it at a later time). There we saw different animals with different injuries in enclosures and in cages being taken care of in order to be re-released into the wild. One animal, a large bear that looked a lot like a grizzly, somehow touched my hardened heart. The caretaker told us that this species in now nearly extinct in Lebanon, and that this guy is a sole survivor and has been living at the shelter for a while. This made me sad and stuck with me for days and I’m not the kind of person that gets emotional over animals: I eat meat, and I would wear fur if I could afford it!
It’s a lot to bear!
But this whole unexpected emotional episode over a lonely bear in a big cage really got me thinking about how tough I have become on the inside and I asked myself some hard questions: why is it that children begging in the streets don’t move me? Why don’t the senseless and violent deaths of innocents in the many warzones all over the region make me angry or sad anymore? Why am I indifferent to the plight of millions of refugees? Why do I only care about a small number of people who comprise my family and close entourage? When did I become so good at selecting who to feel for and when to feel? And how did the big sad bear break through my defenses?
Bear with me on this!
Each person who is suffering from “hardening of the heart” will probably have different answers if they were to ask themselves the questions I asked myself, or similar ones depending on what they have selected to harden their heart about. And (I know I shouldn’t start a sentence with and) even if they found the answers, would that make any difference? Would it cure this affliction? I don’t think it would, although it might help a little in finding a cure or a course of treatment. And are we really sure we want to be cured? YES I WANT TO BE CURED because a lukewarm life is a sign of surrender!
And I found that the cure lies in a decision, a decision to care again in spite of the pain that is suffered because of caring.
And once I start to care and hurt again, I just might become part of some kind of solution.
Thank you almost extinct bear! I love you