Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Everyone's carrying the same things

Image result for Custom officials search through baggage recovered from the Hindenburg disaster
Custom officials search through baggage recovered from the Hindenberg disaster (1937)


Peggy Noonan, yet again:

I had a lot of jobs in a somewhat knockabout youth...The best was waitressing...At the Holiday Inn on Route 3 in New Jersey, long-haul truckers on their way to New York would stop for breakfast. They hadn't talked to anyone in hours. I'd pour coffee and they would start to talk about anything—the boss, the family, politics.
I learned from them what a TSA agent told me many years later: "Everyone's carrying the same things." I had asked the agent what she'd learned about people from years of opening people's bags and seeing what was inside. She meant her answer literally: Everybody's carrying the same change of clothes, the same toiletries. But at the moment she said it we both understood that she was speaking metaphorically too: Everyone's carrying the same burdens, the same woes one way or another. We have more in common than we know.
Which reminded me of this, from Herodotus:

“But this I know: if all mankind were to take their troubles to market with the idea of exchanging them, anyone seeing what his neighbor's troubles were like would be glad to go home with his own.”

That might be the best summation of what I have learned as a psychotherapist: Everyone's suffering, and the suffering is compounded by the misapprehension that suffering is abnormal and that happiness and contentment are the norm. One major personal benefit I have gained from practicing psychotherapy is this: I don't envy anybody.

I used to think that this was from Philo of Alexandria, but apparently it is more recent:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is in the midst of a great struggle."

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