“The hard things break. The soft things bend. The stubborn ones batter themselves against all that is immovable. The flexible adapt to what is before them. Of course, we are all hard and soft, stubborn and flexible, and so we all break until we learn to bend and are battered until we accept what is before us. This brings to mind the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh, the stubborn, hard king who sought to ask the Immortal One the secret of life. He was told that there would be stones on his path to guide him. But in his urgency and pride, Gilgamesh was annoyed to find his path blocked, and so smashed the very stones that would help him. In his blindness of heart, he broke everything he needed to discover his way. With the same confusion, we too break what we need, push away those we love, and isolate ourselves when we need to be held most. There have been many times in my life when I have been too proud to ask for help or too afraid to ask to be held, and in the frenzy of my own isolation, like Gilgamesh, I have smashed the window I was trying to open, have split the bench I was trying to hammer, and have made matters worse by bruising the one I meant to be tender with. The live bough bends. The dead twig snaps. We are humbled to soften from our griefs, or else, in brittle time, become the next thing grieved.”
“Every crack is also an opening. When in the midst of great change, it is helpful to remember how a chick is born. From the view of the chick, it is a terrifying struggle. Confined and curled in a dark shell, half-formed, the chick eats all its food and stretches to the contours of its shell. It begins to feel hungry and cramped. Eventually, the chick begins to starve and feels suffocated by the ever-shrinking space of its world. Finally, its own growth begins to crack the shell, and the world as the chick knows it is coming to an end. Its sky is falling. As the chick wriggles through the cracks, it begins to eat its shell. In that moment—growing but fragile, starving and cramped, its world breaking—the chick must feel like it is dying. Yet once everything it has relied on falls away, the chick is born. It doesn’t die, but falls into the world.”
Having loved enough and lost enough,
I’m no longer searching
no longer trying to make sense of pain
but trying to be a soft and sturdy home
in which real things can land.
These are the irritations
that rub into a pearl.
So we can talk for a while
but then we must listen,
the way rocks listen to the sea.
And we can churn at all that goes wrong
but then we must lay all distractions
down and water every living seed.
And yes, on nights like tonight
I too feel alone. But seldom do I
face it squarely enough
to see that it’s a door
into the endless breath
that has no breather,
into the surf that human
shells call God.