Originally a benchmark was a point of known elevation, now used for many other applications, however, I don’t believe that these would have been one of them, because the benchmark brings many images to my mind:
Is it a level which we should try not to exceed, one by which we live or perhaps one which we should try to surpass in our constant urge of becoming?
What is your benchmark?
Could it be an impression left by others seen to be above or greater than ourselves which we should therefore try to reach or to emulate in whatever form, or is it the impression remaining in the layers of newspaper left on the park bench fast blown away by the morning chill but nevertheless as the one who slept there leaves, with the marks of the bench slats on his back to find a hot drink to drive out the cold from the coffee stand on the corner by the war memorial.
The vendor knows this man and gives him his morning drink free as he stands and gazes at the memorial and wonders what it was all about.
‘Is that all it is, some steps up to a stone cross with a faded poppy wreath at its base?’
With so many others he left family, friends and a well paid job to take up arms to fight for king and country. He learnt new skills: how to fight, how to kill and how to help the injured. You cannot see his wounds nor the scars they have left behind like the benchmarks under the rags he now calls clothes.
After several years of duty he returned home to find nothing!
No family, no home and no job, just a stone cross and a circle of faded flowers to remind him as if he needed reminding, with most of his new found and old friends alike gone, those remaining do not recognise him anymore, with no visible scars they cannot see nor understand those that are hidden within the now cross matched corridors of consciousness.
Now, with no one willing to offer employment there is only charity which is not good company with a compassionate consciousness used to serving, helping and defending others.
For all his sacrifice his greatest regret is the lack of respect which he now experiences, since most only see a broken man good for nothing, and not the man he used to be nor understand the still livid scars that beleaguer his every thought and the nightmares that disturb his once easy patterns of much needed sleep for which his mind and body now cry out.
He asked himself so many times if his sacrifice had been worth it and often envied those whose sacrifice had been of the ultimate kind for at least they were now at peace!
The bench and its marks which he had learned to put up with were the only physical evidence of his fall from any benchmark, but then only temporary, all very well in the summer months, apart from the inevitable rain when a black plastic bin bag opened up had to make do as his waterproof!
I feel a sadness that it takes a Prince of the realm to draw attention to the plight of so many who gave their all, those who lost limbs and certainly part of their consciousness for their country, when in my mind, although you might not agree with war, everyone of those brave men is a prince and deserves the best we can give them and not leave them to feel just the mark of the bench on their backs that have born such heavy burdens on our behalf.
We should not forget the brave women members of the armed forces who have also stepped up and beyond the normal benchmark to serve and with the relaxation of women being allowed to fight in the front line we may see more injured than at present.
Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, said not so long ago that casualties should be expected in war! As if the thousands killed and the millions displaced from his own country by his own troops were to be expected as he hangs on to his despotic power through violence of all kinds indiscriminately killing by shooting, barrel bombing and gassing his own people, while the rest of the world has stood by not daring to cross his own delicate benchmark threshold for fear of all out war in the Middle East.
The very thing the West tried to prevent has in fact happened with more Middle Eastern Countries now involved in a war not of their own making!
Back to our hero on his park bench: In his efforts at self healing he tried hard to remember those times in his younger days when love and laughter ruled his waking consciousness and daylight hours, trying not to look at where he was, but where he wanted to be.
He finally decided that he was happiest when trying to help others and so in trepidation he volunteered his services yet again, but this time trying to help those who found themselves in the same state as himself or just victims of a system and society that had let them down.
What would you do if faced with his pain?
What pain in fact do you face right now which may make you feel as if you will never reach a benchmark that is set too high, when in truth you could set your own benchmark, looking within to realise a level of consciousness where the benchmark is within reach, which you can reset on a daily basis, whose other name, strange as it may seem, is happiness.
If anything positive comes out of an experience like his, it brings into sharp focus strengths and weaknesses which the rest of us struggle to find in the process of knowing ourselves.
Try to look beyond the pain, distress and fear you face for they all set up a resistance to the Well-being which is yours by right and is available 24/7 with the right attitude of mind.
With Love and admiration for all those who suffer, from Hanukah & the Angel.