human person life

Hollow Body

11:22:00 AMEvelyn Hildebrand

The other night, as I was driving  back from a girls night out, I hit a rabbit.

Bushy white tail and big bright eyes bounced out in front of the car.  It took half a horrible second for me to realize that there was not enough time for him to hop out of the way.  Time stopped.

The front tire bumped against a little body. I screamed. Then the back right tire finished the job.  For the length of three blocks, I debated going back to see if fatal damage had been done.  That final jolt against the back right tire had already answered my question.  

He was gone.

Ultimately, my Wednesday night was a more-or-less dramatic but nonetheless real encounter with the end times.    

Life is fragile.  

Sometimes, I feel echoey inside.  You know: the days when you feel like you're so hollow that everybody's looks and comments and thoughts could land inside you, like a marble bouncing inside a glass bowl and glancing off the edges.  As the marble hits the glass, it rings sharply, vibrating painfully, making a sound that hurts your ears.


Part of being a person means having an inner space that can sometimes jar and hurt.  In Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla describes a person as "an objective entity, which as a definite subject has the closest contacts with the whole (external) world and is most intimately involved with it precisely because of its inwardness, its interior life." (1)

People have an inner world, a sacred space.  Human beings experience the world in terms of and through this interior world.  People are sacred.

Now that we all know this truth about each other, what is next?  You can know that an inner world exists beyond your reach behind the eyes of another person, but knowing that world exists does not make you able to reach that world.  It remains right beyond reach.    

What is left?


Wojtyla writes that tenderness "springs from awareness of the inner state of another person (and indirectly of that person's external situation, which conditions his inner state) and whoever feels it actively seeks to communicate his feeling of close involvement with the other person and his situation."  (2) 

Actively communicating awareness of another person's internal and external situation leads to what Wojtyla will call active displays of tenderness.  

This is not a ploy for people to bring me coffee.  I promise.  (On the other hand, I will not reject displays of tenderness that result in coffee).  (On the other hand again, these are the words of a senior who is coming to understand the truth about real poverty: no money, no coffee, no sleep.  Not necessarily in that order.  St. Francis got nothing on me.)

Tenderness does not have to be manifested as an action, though.  Rather, tenderness "resides in an inner emotional attitude, not in its outward manifestations … tenderness is always personal, interior, private - to some extent at least it modestly shuns the gaze of others.  It can display itself really only to those who can understand it and respond to it properly."  (3) 

A quote I discovered from “House of Incest”, a book I have yet to read, speaks to the fragility of human life and our ability to be tender to each other: 

"What you burnt, broke, and tore is still in my hands.  I am the keeper of fragile things and I have kept of you what is indissoluble."  (4) 

I think this is what tenderness means.  To hold other people's hollow bodies in your gentle hands , remembering that there is a swirling world inside.  That remembrance doesn't even require action sometimes, just an attitude of reverence and gentleness.  We are all little swirling worlds these days, little hollow bodies, stumbling past each other in an end of the semester induced haze.  Be tender.  


Evelyn Hildebrand

I love people - it fascinates me that it's impossible to really completely know another person.  There's always uncharted territory.  I love the ocean - the power that pulls you into a rising wave, the clean, clear curve, the pounding crash when the bubbly crest of a wave hits you feet as you dive straight through.  I love paint - on canvas.  On mason jars. On newspaper.  On my hands.   


(1) Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, 23. 
(2) Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, 202. 
(3) Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, 202. 
(4) House of Incest

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