Tuesday, March 31, 2015

for the weight of humble glory

Bravest of all humans, 
                                     consent illumined her. 

The room filled with its light, 
the lily glowed in it, 
                                and the iridescent wings. 
                courage unparalleled, 
opened her utterly.  
--"Annunciation",  by Denise Levertovs

I watched a woman walk through the train station the other day, and I was surprised to see how light she looked. She walked with such quaintness, such softness, I expected the harsh wind of the bustling people around her would blow her away.

She walked with this serene grace I can only imagine you would walk if you realized that you are so much more than what you appear to be on the outside.

I think all of us know that we are more than just what we appear to be on the outside:
a ginger
five foot five
a banker
a New Yorker

We know that we are more than just a sum of our collective parts. That there is something we are that we can't quite touch. In his theatrical poem, Our Town, Thornton Wilder writes that human beings seem to know that there's something eternal in the world, something that endures. And we seem to know that that something has to do with us. It's not just a something in the air or the ever-expanding universe.

There's something inside of us that is deeper than just our outside. Something about us that will remain. Something that is made to last past death.

I think people often forget this part of them. Because I think this part of us is rather painful. Our circumstances often deny it, smother it, or hinder it from shining. It is easier to let this part of us be buried or grow dull rather than face the ache of being something greater than we imagine.

But it is our duty not only to remember this about ourselves: to remember our fundamental beauty and incandescent greatness, but also to remind others of theirs. The day-to-day cruelties of living in a broken world: of two women swearing at each other on the subway, despite their perfectly coiffed hair and fur coats; the squalor of a city sidewalk; the dull, constant worry of distrust and lies; the demeaning inhumanity of crude words or angry actions, can often cause whatever that something eternal inside of us is to curl up, shrink, and hide itself.

Through our own actions-- our daily Joy, the living in harmony with others, our insensible, illogical goodness--we remind ourselves that we were made for more than the shoddy comforts of the world: that we were made for some great goodness. It is easy to forget what beauty looks like, when we never see an image of it. But when I see someone whose inner goodness shines from her whole being, I am reminded of what and who I should be being. Without the goodness of others to pattern ourselves after, how would we ever come to find it on our own?

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