Accident - by Piotr Rajski
Why me? - by Piotr Rajski
Suffering. Not Only a Human Condition - By Randy Iwanciwski
Built for Light - by Gary Horn
As some of may know already this year's Pilgrimage had to be canceled because of my accident. On May 19, I went to do some climbing to the Hidden Valley, behind Roche Miette, in the Jasper National Park. I was accompanied by my friends - Jack Wojno and William Wolniewicz. After a few meters of the "New Salt" route, I grabbed what looked like a solid block. The block detached however and we both fell about 4-5 meters. As I was belayed by Jack I was caught by the rope. The rock in the same time continued its fall, and just before leaving my life it hit my right foot. As it weighted about 400-500 pounds and it was sharp at all sides, it meant bad things for my right foot. The blood started to pour out from my shoe immediately and in big amounts.
Jack lowered me to the ground and helped me to move to a more leveled and grassy terrain. William and some fellow climbers, who were passing by, stayed with me, while Jack went down to get help. I spent the next three hours looking in the sky, trying to limit the bleeding, wondering if it was my time to go to the other side. Those who stayed with me did their best to keep me warm and conscious.
Later I was rescued by a helicopter, which brought me down to the highway. The rescue workers impressed me with the speed and professionalism of their actions. I will always be indebted to Rupert Wedgwood, Dwight Bouroin, Matt Garnett and many others whose names I did not catch. I was then taken by an ambulance to the hospital in Hinton, and after a short break, again by ambulance, to the University Hospital in Edmonton. I had my first operation the same night. Apparently all the bones of my middle foot were badly broken.
In overall I spent two weeks in the hospital and I had two more operations. Before the second operation the surgeon strongly recommended amputation of the half of my foot, but I declined. The same recommendation was repeated by a plastic surgeon who worked on this foot a few days later. It appears that due to the bone and tissue loss, I may never recover the full function of this foot. I wish I could hike again one day, but now my only ambition is to be able to walk.
My spirituality was a great resource for me through this ordeal. Just after the accident I started to repeat God's Name, which is a long time practice of mine. I don't remember, however, if I ever did it so fervently and passionately. In the hospital I had a few contacts with the interfaith chaplain. I received a Holy Communion on a daily basis and also a sacrament of the sick. These contacts meant a great relief for my aching soul!
My spirit was also uplifted by people's reaction to my suffering. Many friends visited me in the hospital with flowers, gifts or just something home cooked. I am especially thankful for Ewa Wiercinska, Jadwiga Zientarska, Jacek and Bozena Wojno, Mila Wolniewicz, Halina Galica, Bruno and Malgosia Stasiak, Michal and Ania Kantoch, and Randy Iwanciwski. They all instilled in me a "fighting spirit" and determination to try to preserve my foot.
My wife Danuta is a "rock of support" for me. Regardless working, and taking care of our sons, she always found energy to visit me in the hospital. Also at home she patiently carries all my requests and looks forward to meet my needs. I sometimes think that this accident helps us to bring our relationship to a new, higher level.
Also the reaction of my new employer, in particular of my boss Linda Rose, filled my heart with peace and gratitude. My employer - Wilson Banwell & Associates - decided to pay my salary at a reduced rate though due to the short time of my employment they were not obliged to do so. It immediately lifted some of the basic financial concerns that resulted from my accident.
After I returned home (what a delightful experience) and apologized to the recipients of One God Notes for the delay, I received numerous messages with the wishes of speedy and full recovery. Even the Edmonton Public Library canceled some dues for late return of two interlibrary loans.
Initially, with Randy we wanted to do the Pilgrimage anyway. Randy was ready to lead while I would simply wait in the Black Cat Ranch. Some of you indicated to us however that it would not be the same experience. That is why we decided to postpone the hike until the next year. I apologize to all of you, especially Christopher Stokowski from Chicago, who already purchased his plane ticket, for all the inconvenience this decision caused. I am grateful to the Black Cat Ranch owners for letting us to withdraw our deposits. We all hope to be their guests next year.
When a tragedy hits we often ask - "Why me?" Naturally, this kind of question passed through my head as well. There is a Polish saying - "if the goat was not jumping, she would not break her leg." I can't blame anyone for my accident but myself. It was my passion for climbing that brought me to this valley on that day.
My friend, George Lucki, was warning me against similar scenario some time ago. He believed it was "irresponsible" to do mountain climbing when, at this stage of our lives, we had duties to our families. In a sense, George was saying that we were "too old" for this kind of enterprises.
There were a couple of reasons why I did not subscribe to this line of thinking. First of all, climbing is not statistically more dangerous than driving a car. And we drive cars to work every day to provide for our families. Second, climbing has always been a "joy of my life." It makes me feel alive and dynamic. It contributes to my overall mental health and productivity. Third, I never liked to "play safe." Playing safe, I believe, does not translate into an interesting life. Metaphorically, climbing has always been who I am. All my achievements in life could be attributed to the same desire to advance, reach higher, discover new domains. Climbing, to some degree, gave me the courage to oppose communism in the early 1980s, which led to imprisonment. I have never regretted that experience. On the contrary, I am proud that I contributed to the "Solidarity" Movement and the changes it eventually brought.
When I think about this accident two explanations come to my mind. First, that it was a "karmic event." This block simply waited for me to deliver suffering resulting from my previous actions. If it was a form of a karmic punishment, I have to say, that the punishment was quite light. If this block hit anything else in my body, I would likely be dead. It surely appears unproportionally light in the context of my accumulated sins and mistakes.
Shortly after the accident I reached for a book about Babaji and opened it at random. I sometimes do with the Holy Scriptures when I seek inspiration. To my amazement the paragraph I looked at narrated a situation quite relevant to my dilemma. It described how Babaji picked up from the fire a blazing stick and without any warning touched with it a shoulder of one of his disciples. When all the gathered raised to protest Babaji explained that if he did not do it, this devotee would burn to death in accordance with his past karma. In this case "the karmic law was satisfied through his slight suffering." I immediately thought that this description applied to my accident.
Another way of looking at this issue is through the value of suffering. It is believed - and I remember the Pope to make a remark like this - that suffering can be a constructive force. It makes us more humble and reduces our egos. It makes us more open to the suffering of other people, which we couldn't, unless suffering ourselves, understand. In a sense suffering makes us more "normal."
Another thought that crossed my mind in the context of the accident was that I was not alert. I remember being a bit "cocky" before the climb. I wish I prayed a bit before the climb but I did not sense any danger. I was overjoyed with the anticipated climb and had these mental images of making it through the route. In the same time I did not pay enough attention to the "reality," in this case, particular and specific details of the wall, its configuration, quality of the rock, etc. Babaji asks us, as Jesus did 2000 years ago, to be alert, to be conscious about what we are doing. And it seems to me that I was not alert enough.
To illustrate what I am unable to express myself, I attach some quotations from many sources on the subjects of Karma, Suffering and Alertness. All the quotes come from the One God Site.
Goswami Tulsidas said in his "Ram Charita Manas": "The Lord Himself created the law of karma - as you sow, so you shall reap." (...) Teachings of Babaji, P.63.
The law of cause and effect is universal; each man must carry his burden of sin, and must go along to its retribution. The same law of cause and effect controls good deeds. Teachings of Buddha, p.194
Nature does not take sides. Everyone has to face the consequences of his deeds. Hence always do noble deeds so that you may not have repent. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 1928.
Mind is indeed the source of bondage and also the source of liberation. To be bound to things of this world: this is bondage. To be free from them: this is liberation. Maitri Upanishad, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World Wisdom, P.20.
Whose diggeth a pit shall fall therein; and he that rolleth a stone, it shall return upon him. Proverbs 26:27. Quoted after: Miriam Bokser Caravella, The Holy Name. P.49.
To free yourself from karma that binds you to the lesser duties of life, develop wisdom and God-consciousness. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.228.
But God teaches men through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes. Job 36:15
I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Psalm 119:75
Forsaking all fear and impatience even in intense suffering, pray to the Lord whole-heartedly, leaving all consequences unto Him. Whatever happens thereafter it shall be for your betterment. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 268.
It's good for you to go through difficult times now and again, and to have your will thwarted; the effect is often to make a man think - make him realize that he is living in exile, and it is no use relying upon any earthly support. Thomas A Kempis, I.12.1
The scandal of the Cross remains the key to the interpretation of the great mystery of suffering, which is so much a part of the history of mankind. (...) God places Himself on the side of man. (..) "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8). John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, P.63.
The Lord cannot tolerate the suffering of His devotee who remains immersed in Him always. He bears the suffering of His devotee Himself. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 923.
To have a body is to suffer. Does anyone with a body know peace? Those who understand this detach themselves from all that exists and stop imagining or seeking anything. The sutras say, "To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss." When you seek nothing, you are on the Path. The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, P.5-7.
Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies soul. In suffering, we learn who our true friend is. True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering. Faustina Kowalska, The Diary, 342.
(...) They went and put their question to Rabbi Zusya. He laughed. "You certainly have not come to the right man! Better go to someone else rather than me, for I have never experienced suffering." But they knew that, from the day he was born to this day, Rabbi Zusya's life had been a web of need and anguish. Then they knew what it was to accept suffering with love. Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim. PP. 217-8.
All suffering can be taken away by the contact of God. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.29.
So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. (...) you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:42,44
You must awake others and make them arise and be alert. If you are always alert, this will be of great benefit to you. You will achieve happiness and you will be saved from the calamities which are coming very soon. Teachings of Babaji, P.53.
Only those who are very alert and careful can be successful in their life. (...) Teachings of Babaji, P.109.
Mindfulness is the way to the deathless, inattentiveness the way to death. Those who are diligently attentive do not die, those who are thoughtless are as if dead already. Dhammapada, a collection of sayings attributed to Buddha, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World Wisdom, P.104.
(…) Be very attentive these days. Our Lady of Medjugorie, June 23, 1982. Words from Heaven, P.129.
If you want great wealth, and that which lasts forever, wake up! If you want to shine with the love of the Beloved, wake up! You've slept a hundreds nights, and what has it brought you? For your Self, for your God, wake up! Wake up! Sleep no more. Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), a Sufi, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World's Wisdom, P.328.
To be able to concentrate is essential for spiritual progress; without
concentration you shall never find God. (...) As soon as your consciousness
is right, God is there. He isn't hiding from you; you are hiding from Him.
Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.166.
Suffering. Not only a human condition.
The subject of suffering may take many forms; that of physical pain, mental anguish, lost direction or anger. In humanity many, many events are recorded by incidents of suffering. Mankind marks itself with suffering because it shows some kind of loss. Wars, conflicts uprisings for what ever reason, something is lost in the event. It is these events that we must remember and learn from them. If anything is lost be it: freedom, resources, even life, we must learn from these events.
At a more local level one's being records many sufferable events. Toothache, broken bones, even a broken heart! Loss of trust in a relationship, all can lead to endless suffering that can plague us for a lifetime.
In terms of our God and Jesus His son, we are redeemed by Jesus’ suffering on the cross. He gave it all, His life for our sins so as He suffered for us our sins are forgiven.
No one can top that merciful love that God has sent through His son Jesus. Our human suffering is a small taste of what our Lord and Savior did for us. Yet as we being fully human and Jesus being fully human and Divine, we become or have the opportunity to become One through our suffering, one with our God.
Jesus has related to us through His suffering and we can relate to Him through ours. He has come down for us and we can rise up to meet Him. God does not impose pain in our lives or provoke us to suffer. We have free will and make choices in what direction we could travel through our lives. If that choice calls us to some sort of pain then it must become and opportunity to learn, not to just suffer in silence and plead to God for a forgiveness for a “punishment.” Our God is Love and this notion that God punishes us is false. We take it upon ourselves to fall into a trap that God wishes this pain upon us if we have been “ bad or reckless.” God will always take us back and let us learn through our own healing.
Yes events in our lives may seem tragic and hopeless in our eyes, but God coaxes us to move on and learn from them. We must also learn from the suffering and death of Jesus that we are a resurrection people. Not to be stuck in the tomb of death and loss. Pain may trap us, but in knowing that the God of Love is waiting to set us free, why wait? Allow healing in whatever form to come to you and know that an all-loving God is here to comfort and heal.
Take time to be with those who are suffering and learn from them. If you are in pain yourself, listen to what God is saying to your heart.
Built For Light
I enjoy watching animals and I love zoos. I can spend hours marveling at the way God has designed each animal for its specific environment.
We humans are also marvelously engineered. For example, we are built for a specific environmental condition called "daylight". Our faculties and our basic biological rhythm are centered on the presence of the sun: we are not nocturnal, and we do not see well in the dark. Our other senses, such as smell and hearing, provide us little assistance in the absence of light. We are almost completely dependent upon the sun for navigation.
Our pet rats, Chip and Louie, are marvelous examples of animals that are built for darkness. Their body clock tells them to sleep during daylight and to be alert at night. Their black eyes are designed for night vision and their whiskers enable them to "feel their way" through the darkness. They have excellent hearing, and their nose, which is their strongest sense, helps them determine what's "out there" in the night. They navigate with ease in situations that cause most of us to be uneasy at best and panic-stricken at worst. In every way the rats are suited for the absence of light.
In the realm of spiritual matters, our spiritual senses are also built for light, the light of intimate communion with God. Sadly however, we humans are "out of our environment", like a rat at a rock concert. We are continually turning this way and that, groping for meaning here, searching for significance there, and ultimately coming up empty. We restlessly look for these things in places where they can't be found and are oblivious to them when they're right in front of our noses.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, looking through our darkened vision, has examined the preoccupations of life, many of them good, and declared them "meaningless". Why? Because we do not see them as God sees them, as God intended them to be seen, with spiritual vision. In our blindness we look to exploit life for our gratification, to use people and things as ends in and of themselves, rather than viewing them as manifestations of God's love, care, according to His plan for the world. We mistake our spiritual longings for physical ones and attempt to force material things to satisfy them.
Sadly, there is no complete vision for us until heaven, when we are completely reunited with the Light, with the One for Whom we were built. In the meantime, we can pray for the vision that only the Holy Spirit can supply. This "sight" would help us see Christ in everyone we meet, rather than another just another person we can use and ultimately injure. This "vision" would reveal the real purpose behind the things of life, as acts of God's love and concern for us, rather than as idols to be worshipped. And thankfully, God has given us all the grace we need for our grope toward glory. (1/14/02).
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