Book excerpt from Inside the Miracle by Mark Nepo
When I began writing poetry, I almost studied with a tough fiber of a man, Paul Blackburn, but he died of cancer. It shook us all. Later, I read how he regarded his plight, “I want no pity for a pain I would share with no man.” I was disturbed. I didn’t understand. And now, after having tread my own yard of hell, I still don’t understand. Pity is to love what sarcasm is to honest speech, but sharing pain is the only way to stay alive. I am sorry he felt so all alone.
Perhaps when we almost die, we empty our pockets too fast and perhaps too late, but there is no shame in empty pockets or empty moods. And while needing love to feel good about being alive is a modern indulgence, needing love to stay alive is the archetype behind God almost touching Adam’s finger. Perhaps, in the original sense of séance, death can be put off, if we simply join our love in earnest expectation that we be touched from the beyond.
I have never wasted my gift. Now, I’ve had to fight for it. I still am. But not alone. Rather with a net of love which helps absorb and distribute the struggle. It’s taught me that if we share pain, which is a lot to ask, there is no room for pity. For sharing the struggle requires an investment, a real life-changing investment by those who care; an involvement that will instigate their own tandem suffering. Pity is a bleacher activity. It is the substitute for front line caring.
I am well today, because those who love me got involved, deeply involved, daily involved. And by being so healed, I am forever wed to their pain. I am forever open to their struggles. By being so loved, I can never shut my life completely again. If they fall, I will live lower. If they rise, I will take on their dizziness. We will live like pools of water; each clearly individual but all sharing and exchanging the same slippage and rush of tides. Now I understand. This is the basis of human family, the sharing of pain, the investment of love by which we make a difference and are changed, again and again.
I have said throughout this ordeal, repeatedly, “Come with me, if you can, as far as you can.” It was a plea for help and company. And from those who’ve come along, I understand that touch is the clearest way to know another’s experience. To walk through the surf makes us part of the ocean. To watch it swell and recede makes us just a shiftless though sympathetic dune. I am well because people didn’t watch my suffering, but entered it; through which they felt love- sufferings of their own; which, at times, hurt them too much; which, in turn, forced me to nurture them; until, in bare, essential ways on certain days, we weren’t sure who was ill and who was well. A solution that saved us all.