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  • Writer's picturejon walker

Waking up loving-kindness.

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

When he talks about the loving kindness practice, Jack Kornfield reads this story as a way to open hearts. It is from the book Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery by Richard Selzer. Yes, it is long for a post, but worth the read:

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of her facial nerve, the one to the muscles in her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. As a surgeon, I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. “Who are they,” I ask myself, “he with his wry mouth who gaze and touch each other so generously?”

The woman speaks:

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say. “It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods, is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god.

Unmindful of my presence, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I’m so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.

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