“This morning, I’m thinking about this Wallace Stevens poem that begins, “Twenty men crossing a bridge into a village is twenty men crossing twenty bridges into twenty villages. The bridge is different to each of us, as is the village beyond.” I guess I’m thinking about this poem because I’m remembering a walk I took ten years ago with my friend Esther [across a bridge].
The bridge had a grated floor so that you could see through to the teeming river below and I’ve never been super enthusiastic about heights or, for that matter, bridges, and Esther, whose empathy dials were always turned up to 11, noticed there was something wrong. She told me that we were almost across the bridge and that I could take over pushing her wheelchair if I wanted something to hang on to. She knew my bridge was different from hers.
And so, the true observation is never ‘this bridge is terrifying’, instead, the only thing you can say with any certainty is ‘my bridge is terrifying, how ’bout yours?’
And then, this is real trick of living on a planet that contains many other human souls that are as valuable and multitudinous as your own, you must find a way to really listen to this other person’s answer and to believe in their experience as fully as we believe in our own.”
— John Green
(Ah, this whole piece is powerful and a delight all at the same time! If you have four minutes go hand have a watch/listen… It takes the idea of the river, of the cathedral, and even a bit on how every person you encounter meets a different you, and blends them all together into an uplifting call for empathy, not only for others, but for ourselves as well. Is my bridge terrifying? Do I feel as though it shouldn’t, and, more over, that I’m re bad for it feeling that way? How fascinating! I can let that be, for that is where I am right now. And if it isn’t some place I want to be, I can forgo what’s wrong and look for what’s missing. I can reach out and hold onto something and begin the work of transformation and possibility from there.)