Sunday, January 23, 2011

Compassion of Babalú-Ayé

My wife received Babalú-Ayé a few years back, and she is devoted to him, truly loves him. So, last week I asked her what she wanted to know about Babá. She reflected for a moment and said in her inimitable way, "I want to know where his compassion comes from."

I don't know of any patakí that explains that, but I once had a dream which may speak to this question. In the dream, Babalú-Ayé and I stood together in a dark space. In the darkness, I heard his rough voice say, "I can feel all the pain in the world."

Maybe the Lucumí elders learned their laconic style from the orichas themselves. Here Babá seems to say it all in a single sentence: He feels my pain. He feels your pain. He feels every one's pain. This is a very different take on what it means to be the Lord of the World. I believe it is his own suffering that leads to his compassion. Because he knows all the suffering in the world, he does not shy away from suffering in us. Because he knows that every human being suffers sometimes, he is not surprised when we come before him crying in pain. Because he pushes on despite his own pain, he appreciates that tenacity in us. Having coped with his own brokenness, he is most understanding of our own limitations.

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