Bearing Witness

See It, Share It Clearly

The English word “martyr” is identified with all sorts of suffering. But its root is a Greek word that means both “to witness” and “to bear witness.” The act of witnessing is seemingly passive. But on closer inspection, there is a decidedly active component. Say you go to a play. How does it strike you? Is it well written, well performed, well staged? In other words, you the viewer have a role to play in determining the truth within a given moment.

Bearing witness has its own responsibilities. Sharing the truth is a difficult task and is most often the purview of the artist. But like the act of witnessing, which seemed passive upon first glance, the activity in bearing witness alters when seen more closely. In fact, the ultimate means of sharing truth is to get out of the way. By refusing to impose ideas or invest emotions in a given situation, you see it more neutrally, more impersonally. Only then can you share the truth of the matter using your highest degree of awareness, with the utmost compassion.

Recommended: Bearing Witness: A Zen Master's Lessons in Making Peace by Bernie Glassman


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