Friday, December 27, 2013

I set all my regrets on fire

It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done.
--Thomas Merton.

"What are you getting right?" a voice inquired at me from across the parking lot.
I stopped and turned around to see a friendly elderly lady smiling at me, and posing the question.
I was puzzled (naturally). It turns out she misread the words "Fighting Irish" branded across the back of my shirt.

As I turned away, I thought of the original question:
What am I getting right?
Too often, I realized, I am focused on what I'm getting wrong.
Which, to be fair, is a lot. So it's sort of natural that my mistakes take up a lot of mental space.
There are many beautiful, glorious people I know who think they're somewhat less than glorious.
Because no matter how optimistic or cheerful or joyful a person is, I think one of the fundamental human errors is that we focus far too much on our own failures.
We allow our mistakes to irk us, tug at us, distort our vision of our own beauty.
We're constantly examining ourselves in funhouse mirrors and accepting the distortion as reality.
It's easy to point out the flaws in ourselves, because it's part of our armor.
We think we're outsmarting everyone else, who we're so sure are watching us and criticizing us on the look-out for a speck in our eye on which they can comment.
For some reason, it is so much easier to notice the flaws in those closest to us--especially in ourselves--than to notice their bright spots.
There is no reason that this should be.
And the fact that it is so is one of those crazy little leaps of logic that we accept as part of the fabric of human existence, without taking a moment to notice that it is crazy.
It does not, in fact, "make sense."
It is one of those uncomfortable signifiers that maybe the cosmos does not fit us as well as our favorite pair of jeans, and maybe we do not fit into it as perfectly as we would wish.
Maybe the art of being fully alive is perhaps accepting that we are filled with a gloriousness that we cannot comprehend, because it is not ours.
We did not fashion it, we do not own it, we did not bring it into being within ourselves by weeding out all the embarrassing and awkward and rather shameful parts of our self.
It is uncomfortable that the shameful parts of our self do not always evaporate, but rather, like a splinter, must be worked out slowly, surely, with great care.
Eventually, the skin closes up, sometimes leaving a scar, woven of water and collagen.
A scar is an embarrassing marker of an injury received. But it is also stronger than the untouched and unbroken skin around it.
It is quite silly to be a human being, to be a creature of unlimited glory who has a fair number of embarrassing specks in one's eye.
We are strange, mistake-ridden creatures who somehow manage to get a lot right.

though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within
--Galway Kinnell

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