Cracked up or cracked open?
"Your heart will at times get broken by loss, fatigue, defeat, betrayal, or death. What happens next in you and the world around you depends on how your heart breaks. If it breaks apart into a thousand pieces, the result may be anger, depression, and disengagement. If it breaks open into greater capacity to hold the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the result may be new life. “
-Parker J Palmer
You built a home, because you believed you could hold life at bay with four walls and a roof of your own making. From out of the chaos you ruled some lines, erected structure. For this is the stuff of life: choose relationships to invest in, family, friends, partners: brick upon brick. Select a career, stake our your territory, plough the earth, plant your contribution, reap the rewards of labour. Enjoy the inherent contract that work equals food, security, satisfaction. Oh how you built your refuge in all the pandemonium of living. Quietly you whispered to the wind: If I am even with life, then life will be even with me.
Fine print: If I invest wisely, I’ll never experience poverty. If I marry, I’ll never experience loneliness. If I have a child, I will always know love. If I step carefully, I’ll not suffer regret. If I don’t make mistakes I’ll never hurt anybody, and no one will ever despise me. If I play the economy and choose the career it asks for, I’ll never feel useless in this world. If I follow this prescription laid out by my parents and society, I will be satisfied, life will be meaningful, I will not fall down into despair.
|Paper cutting by Kate Gillett|
Richard Rohr says we spend the first half our lives building a container. Something strong, that will hold us. A family, a marriage, a career, a home. But then in the second half of our lives we become concerned with what’s in the container. And that process blows the container apart. Because life was always bigger than something we could build.
Hoshino, a Japanese truckie listening to a concerto in a late night café said: “Living turned me into nothing. Weird…People are born in order to live right? But the longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve lost what’s inside me and ended up empty. And I bet, the longer I live, the emptier, the more worthless I’ll become.” *
You begin to spot them, the people with eyes wide open. Meeting your gaze with the infinite recognition of naked refugees standing in the wreckage of their lives. Everything dissolving, ebbing, constantly giving way. You begin to see their blazing hope.
Because it comes for you: the inevitable moment when the winds pick up, the sands blast and the roaches completely invade. Like a mother protecting her young, you beg for the deliverance of all your delusions, the sparing of even one wall, just one belief that sheltered you from life’s suffering. You weep for everything you sacrificed to build the security now dissolving like the ethereal fairy floss it always was. You wail in outrage that the false-bargain you made is failing to deliver on terms life never agreed to.
It is a relief, then, when the roof is finally wrenched off and the walls flattened, you yourself flattened, pressed to the floor in forced submission. Because finally it comes, the exhale, the surrender, that this is how it is, you can finally stop fighting everything you once deemed unacceptable. Accept it- the unspeakable, the unthinkable. For there is truly no force in the universe that can hold back suffering, pacify that rabid dog and assuage him to leave you alone. There is no morality that ensures that bad things don’t happen to good people. No amount of diligence or responsibility that will ward off the great tragedy of this human existence.
Then, suddenly...silence. The great sand storm stilled. The unspeakable, the unthinkable, the everything unwanted pausing in surprise at the acceptance in your eyes. The disbelief. Then knowledge: at last they are accepted.
You scramble to your knees, and crouched there you weep, them, us, all the unwanted finally welcomed home. A true home, with no walls or roof, full of sand and roaches. In all that broken embrace you feel the expanse growing, feel wonder at having broken open to a bigger wider life. The freedom burgeoning now that you have accepted life on its terms of suffering and no longer hide behind false protections, so in fact you are open, are available, are fluidly there when life in all its beauty blossoms open so you can see right into its depth. In that interaction with a human you might never have been open to. In that moment of loneliness that you might have fended against but in fact is perfect in its solitude. In the adventure you might have missed, carefully pinned to your responsible safeguards. How quietly it spreads, the peace, those moments that stretch into what feel like days but perhaps are just one day or one deeply felt moment...When you ease into all that equanimity that looks upon your suffering so kindly and compassionately that it loses its sting. And a dull exquisite ache anchors you, pulls you deeper into that place of compassion that you have swum all your life to reach.
"People start to destroy the excitement of the present moment due to the fact that they are trying to live behind walls to protect their prosperity and happiness."
- Paulo Coelho
*(Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore).