Photo credit: BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40272984
The photos under the headline “Grenfell Tower block fire: In pictures” on the BBC’s news website captures the kind of heartbreak, tragedy and pain that words are usually deficient in describing. Mixed together are images of utter loss and inconsolable grief but also heroism and heart.
What is it about tragedy that brings us together, makes us forget our differences – these carefully crafted lines of superior vs inferior, great vs small, poor vs rich, color lines and smatterings of socialization which together are as conspicuous and yet abstract as a Jackson Pollock painting. These segregated swaths of color and money suddenly become insignificant because compassion bleeds and runs unrestrained, erasing (even if temporarily) all the carefully crafted lines. The images in the news may be of individuals, but the stories speak to the whole, the group, the affected and the helpful passerby who run towards the hot, falling debris to catch a baby being released into the air by a mother who only wants to ensure her child escapes the inferno.
This mother does not care who raises their hands and stands between the baby and the concrete pavement riddled with charred rubble from the burning high rise. The opinions she may have harbored about people of a certain color or class were not in her mind as she courageously acted in love, holding on to hope in the face of fear (which also serves as the root to old prejudices) and released the baby knowing that if anyone can, they will save her child without pausing to examine its social upbringing.
At this point, there is no difference between the rescued and the rescuer except for where they are standing: one in the furnace and the other below, both watching the flames rage against accomplishments and devouring possessions. Both in recognition of their mortality and both doing what they can to save lives, whether theirs or others.
If only we could live like this outside the heightened tension of a tragedy or threat, if we could copiously appreciate the full painting, seeing every stroke and pattern as being equally worthy of its place on the canvas, fitted in the giant frame of humanity and priceless for our complex beauty.
No one has to teach us this response when crises arise, it comes naturally I believe because this is how we are intended to be, wired if you will to be in complete acceptance of the idea that we are one at our core…lines and blobs, colors and shades, yes all different, but our hearts are essentially the same, in shape and color but also in our capacity for compassion.