Nouwen suggests the world needs a new kind of authority figure. Not one who is in some distant power center, but one who is "in the midst of the people." Nouwen names this authority "Compassion," for the central nature of this authority must be compassion. And as Nouwen hints, compassion is born when we discover the "center of our own existence," which in my experience has been both tormented and magnificent. It's in this compassionate evolution that profoundly significant and intimate connections are made and become the very touchstones of healing. And of course, the compassionate evolution of one's self happens by way of contemplation.
In the annals of Christianity, we often think of contemplation as a solitary event. However, some of the best contemplation takes place in the dialogues between the Wounded and the Wounded Healer. Oftentimes wounds have evolved from significant and profound abandonment, leaving the Wounded far too isolated. Contemplation with another is liberating, as conversation between the Wounded Healer and the Wounded stimulate new ideas and generate a new self-reference. In other words, when contemplation happens within the presence of a Healer, transcendence evolves. Or, in other words, one senses that he or she can be more than what the wounds dictate.
As Nouwen states, 'The contemplative is . . . guided by a vision of what is seen beyond the trivial . . . " When contemplation is viewed in this way, it occurs mystically at a precise catalytic point where the outer voice meets the inner voice. Oftentimes this point is so profound that it remains nonverbal and even pre-conscious until the Wounded and the Healer have a time for solitary introspection and processing of what was said, heard, and encountered. Sometimes it remains so profoundly pre-conscious and nonverbal that the expression occurs in poetry, painting, or some other art form expressing the discovery. Oftentimes the metaphors and similes express the transcendent nature and significance of the introspective discovery.
Now, the Wounded Healer experiences his or her own epiphany during these catalytic points of inner and outer voice meetings, occurring within the very same contemplative process conducted between the self and the suffering person. And, again, the compassionate evolution of the wounded self continues. Even for and maybe especially for the Wounded Healer. Remember, we have already defined the compassionate evolution as resulting from the touching of your own life core in all of its tormenting, dark, and angelic magnificence.
Nouwen says it this way: "The contemplative critic takes away the illusory mask of the manipulative world and has the courage to show what the true situation is. He [she] knows that he/she is considered by many as a fool, a madman, a danger to society and a threat to humankind. But he/she is not afraid to die, since his/her vision makes him/her transcend the difference between life and death and makes him/her free to do what has to be here and now, notwithstanding the risks involved." "More than anything else, he/she will look for signs of hope and promise in the situation in which he finds himself/herself. The contemplative critic has the sensibility to notice the small mustard seed and the trust to believe." Surprisingly enough, it is the Wounded Healer's sensitivities to both inner and outer movements of spirit which provide the self and others a sense of spiritual direction. This is very difficult because of the Healer's wounds. However, without an awareness of his or her own psychological injuries, the Wounded Healer lacks the sensitivity to provide an account of spirit and its movements within the soul and world.
Nouwen suggests it is contemplative prayer that will provide the Wounded Healer's basis for direction. Prayer might be expanded here to include the consultation between the Wounded and his or her spiritual guide or companion, or tormentor who assists in the conversion of "convulsive destructiveness into creative work." In other words, when the outer word spoken by a guide meets the inner word of wounded madness, something wonderful happens--conversion. Conversion not in the sense of once in a lifetime rebirth, but conversion in the sense of an enlightened moment where a degree of "convulsive destructiveness," shadow is transformed into one small impulse of positive force. This is the cathexis point where transcendence HAPPENS--where the outer voice meets inner voice--where the voice of sanity and salvation meet madness, and maybe only for that moment transcendence takes place, resulting in a compassionate evolution. The compassion may be for the self or it may be for others.
Yes, as Nouwen notes, sometimes the vehicle is contemplative prayer. But, sometimes it is the voice of another sensitive and compassionate soul or the painting of an artist or the poet's word--what difference does it make, as long as compassion is seen.
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