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Crying With China: Thoughts on Transcending the Mundane

by Caroline

When I listen to touching or sad stories on NPR, often tears come to my eyes. Sometimes they fall down my cheeks. Rarely do I start having to catch my breath because I’m really crying

Last Wednesday was one of those rare times. It was a devastating story about a young Chinese couple frantically searching for their young child in the rubble of a collapsed apartment buiding. Two days had passed since the earthquake, but this couple still had hope their son and some grandparents were still alive.

Maybe it’s because my toddler is exactly the same age as their toddler. Maybe it’s because of the heart-wrenching wail of the mom towards the pile of rubble, “Wang, Mom is coming for you!”, is exactly what I would have wailed. Maybe it’s because of that final description of the dead boy cradled in his dead grandfather’s arms.

I cried for a good 20 minutes over this story. And when I had finally gotten myself together, it struck me that I was profoundly grateful for that story. Grateful. What a strange emotion towards something that had made me so sad.

Hearing this couple’s agony was devastating, but it also made me feel… human. So many days of my life I just do my thing in my comfortable life. I bristle with annoyance at bad drivers, I try to maintain patience in the face of toddler tantrums, I buy the groceries. I am encircled in the everyday.

But to have those few moments when I absolutely transcend the mundane, when I feel a stranger’s pain and mourn with those who mourn, when I feel overwhelmed with empathy – it was exhilarating and awful and wonderful. These were moments of infinite depth, moments where my soul recognized a sister and brother a world away, moments where I truly felt my humanity and my oneness with God’s children.

What helps you to transcend the mundane? What in your life helps you to feel your oneness with humanity and the universe?


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Lovely post. With China and Burma, I’ve spent several news reports over that last couple of weeks sobbing over the sheer number of lives that have been lost.
    There is something about human suffering and loss that has me feel a part of humanity in a way nothing else does.

    Feeling oneness of the universe often comes to me as I lie in bed with my skylight window overhead and look at the stars. Hundreds of thousands of them, and I just stare in awe and wonder at the vast thing I’m a tiny little part of.

  2. Jessica says:

    I don’t think I’ve commented on this blog yet, but I feel like I have to tonight. I feel very blessed to have stumbled upon your post this evening. I’ve had probably the roughest night in my young/inexperienced life, and this made me think about empathy in a way that is helping me to place my heartache and loss as an experience to make me more human. I have no intention of threadjacking, so let me just say thanks for posting this today.

  3. Caroline says:

    Rebecca, sometimes I too feel a great connection to the universe through nature. Stars, rivers, canyons, ocean – the older I get, the more I see the divine in them.

    Jessica, I’m so sorry about your terrible night. I’m glad this post has helped a little.

  4. Jessawhy says:

    Caroline, what a wonderful post. They do a good job on NPR of making me feel connected to the world.
    This topic came up a while ago on another site, and someone pointed out that in the Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis, the devil in training (Wormwood?) was told to encourage people to feel empathy for people they don’t know and hate for people they do know. So, now when I think about how sorry I feel for people in China or Myanmar, I stop and think about how I can show that love and sympathy to people who are close to me.

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