I was talking the other morning, over good coffee, with a friend. We discussed many things and one of them was our broken-ness. Not specific to either of us, nor to any particular situation, but more the general broken-ness of all humans and the fact that it doesn’t stop there. We don’t stay broken. What we learn, as things break down, as they always do, is that this is the only time the huge power of the human spirit finds its feet.
When life bounces along, like a big bright beach ball, full of lift and colour, there is no call for this spirit. There’s nothing to be fixed or cured, to be assessed or repaired. We just bounce along. All is well and we badly want it to remain thus. It never does. Now, somewhere, someone at some time will have considered this, spent sleepless hours considering it, defining it. And yet this mystery defies definition, for it makes absolutely no sense at all.
Life is good, we are doing all the right things, such as limiting alcohol, or giving it up completely; cutting out dairy or wheat, exercising our socks off, reading ‘best seller’ books on How To Be Happy, that guide us, page by page into the Elysium fields, if, that is, we, a) believe it works and, b) have the willpower to sustain such a disciplined life. The trouble is that most of us, if we are honest, cannot keep it up and the rest of us don’t believe it anyway, because at some point life is going to shaft us, no matter what regime we embark upon.
Well, welcome to the human state! And welcome, also, to the broken-ness in you, because, trust me, it is there.
I am interested, nay, fascinated, not with the beach ball but with what happens when somebody’s terrier bursts it and all the children weep. I admit, freely, to being a member of the Broken and have found, to my delight, that this is not something I have earned through misbehaviour. I haven’t racked up any more black marks than most, well, maybe a few more, and I do not believe in that sort of karma. I think we are born with it and what is more, I believe it’s quite intentional. Whether we believe in the God of creation, or our evolution from apes, our fundamental wiring is pre-set from birth, for all of us. Of course, there are subtle differences, such as skin colour, location, facial features, talents handed down from our forbears, but some things are just a part of us all, and one of these is our broken-ness.
I used to think that mine was my fault and that led to self-flagellation, guilt and regret. At each knock-down I would send my mental mouse scurrying through my mind in search of all the things I had done wrong, dragging each of them out from the shadows and assessing them again in the light. I built on them until they were growling bears and jaw-snapping wolves and sometimes, they overpowered and consumed me. ‘If only I was a different person, measured and not impulsive, steady and controlled instead of compulsive; If I talked less and listened more, if I stopped showing off, if I could just control this constant urge to fly away, be like my grounded mother, my steady sisters; if only I could manage my affairs better, if only I liked joining clubs and groups, if only, if only……..’
Most of us don’t even look at it, our broken-ness, for it is way too scary. And yet, it is exactly where we should look. Not our aching joints but our aching hearts. It is a subject most avoid, and I have cleared rooms, and certainly silenced tables whenever I rise the subject. When someone asks a question, a difficult one, I can see the respondee mining his head for a tactical response, one that deflects attention away from the personal element of the question, from any light shone on his broken-ness.
When did we learn to be so dishonest? Who can really say, I failed you, I am sorry? Who doesn’t seek to levy blame on the weather, the traffic, the clock change, the children, the plumber, the husband?
When we learn to admit to our weaknessess, our broken-ness, our humanity, we allow the spirit in us to begin work. The human brain is a million times bigger than we think, capable of almost everything (although I still can’t fly) and we barely use it. Admitting to failure, admitting to fault is like pulling out one brick in the wall of our defences. Of course, this could mean, will probably mean, that the whole wall will crumble. We are left with no wall, open to the soft winds of change, and the view, my friends, is breath-taking.