What a simple, yet potent word.
I was at dance class recently after having dragged myself off the couch following a two-hour nap. Naps had become a regular part of my day in the preceding weeks. Fighting off chemically-induced fatigue and physical discomfort, I lugged my fifty-pound bags of imaginary sand with me into the dance studio. Exercise, I knew, was the only thing that would make me feel physically better. At least a little bit. Only sheer force of will got me through the door.
Slow going at first, I was buoyed by the support of wonderful friends and classmates. And though they couldn't actually do the dance steps for me, they were supremely encouraging. We were well into the warm-up routine when I felt myself fading, but I hung on. It was then that the choreographer we all love and adore gave me a hug and whispered one word in my ear...
Transcend: to rise above; to be or go beyond the limits of something.
I embraced the word completely, willing myself to both physically and figuratively rise above my own limitations. For the remainder of the class I challenged myself to dance full-out as I always had, embracing the beauty and lyricism of the music. I quite literally transcended my illness in that moment to a level of peaceful illumination I had thought was out of reach.
In the subsequent days I considered this word more and more, and not only have I repeatedly applied it to my physical self, I've applied it to my emotional self as well.
There has been so much pain and violence and hateful rhetoric lately. Mass murder. Nasty political discourse by hate-mongering psychopaths and equally hateful supporters. It is sickening. But not unlike a terrible car accident on the side of the road, we cannot turn away, though we should.
I realized that my physical and psychological health requires me to transcend these realities. As my wise instructor said to me after class, "transcending is different than fighting." He was right.
To fight brings out our most basic of instincts: survive or perish, win or lose, harm or be harmed. It causes us to suffer physically, emotionally, or both. But we cannot fight while simultaneously embracing humanity, compassion, and empathy -- for ourselves, and for others.
So I've tried to transcend the suffering of the world and see it for what it truly is -- a constantly changing landscape over which I have very little control -- without drowning in its misery. And like transcending a personal battle with illness, family discord, or heartfelt loss that would otherwise consume us, transcending society's wider challenges will, in the end, make the world a better place.
For each of us, and for all of us.