Welcome to day 24 of 31 Days of Kissing the Wounds, a month of posts about the beauty, longing, and soul inherent in our damaged selves; in the world’s brokenness; in the imperfection, incompleteness, and transience of all that we love; in our recognition of each other as the walking wounded; and in the jagged, messy, splintery, deformed, sullied, unhealed parts of me, you, the natural world, our communities, the culture. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others. I won’t attempt to tie them together.
I posted this (edited a bit) in 2008. I see third places, certain kinds of conversation (among people who differ), and “the commons” as antidotes to brokenness — individual brokenness, which is never just individual, and the break-down of relationship, community, society.
Michael Jones, in his paper on Artful Leadership says this:
“So in the commons the alchemy of the third is found in wholeness. This suggests that when the question arises in those beginning the practice of the commons, “Is this a commons?” it may be answered by sensing how much wholeness is present and actualized. And because wholeness is invisible, we know it primarily through its effects. For example, we may know we are in the presence of wholeness when we feel ourselves to be deeply heard, perhaps because there is sufficient stillness amongst us to allow what we say to be fully received. Or suddenly we sense that our voice carries new clarity and strength, and those with us can hold strong voices without fear. Perhaps we know it because we feel whole and complete, and there is a warmth in us that lets us engage the deeper subtleties of meaning and connection. Often there is an accompanying, heightened trust in ourselves and others, so that we can move with grace and ease from a reliance on memory and past knowledge to the forming of new insights. Or we know that wholeness is present because we feel involved and engaged, that is we feel that we have a home here; the essence of our gifts has been taken in and embodied by the whole.
“Most important, it is the sense that the part of us that has felt orphaned in the world has now been taken in by the commons. This makes room for us to find our own thinking, and follow our own feeling in a way that is free from any need for defensiveness or self-deception. This in turn makes the fuller experience of wholeness possible. Furthermore, to be in the presence of wholeness is to acknowledge that it cannot ever be replicated; it comes to us as a gift and in a moment that is unique and unrepeatable.”
I like these words, and ‘wholeness’ and its effects as a ‘measure’ of whether the commons is a commons, a place of collective wisdom and magic.
Even though I usually feel unable to verbally express what matters most to me — even to myself at any given time, because it all feels like an amorphous tag cloud, except all the words and phrases are visuals, memories, what I overheard, how it works together, that moment, colours, patterns, under water, something half-remembered, who you were, poem fragments, a death, more fragments, music, her letter, a mark on a calendar, some bits of dreams, a breath, a frisson, your smile, sand, what didn’t happen, that moment, etc — I do sometimes feel that I am heard when I speak, as much as is possible. Mostly I feel that people are trying hard to hear and are misunderstanding, assuming, personalising, biased, listening to something else, and all the things we are and do, the ways we miss each other and then solidify the illusion of the other. It happens.
I’m not sure we can be “fully received” or that we can do the same for others, no matter how strong the intent and the stillness. But something of significance, something that evokes compassion, the reminds us that “the other is me”, that lives and breathes life, can be received, and that’s good.
Jones also says:
“The commons is a listening field within which we may reawaken to the longing, wonder and belonging from which all new life begins. It offers a remedy for the isolation, loneliness and absence of meaning that have become the sickness of our time.”
What I also like about what Jones says is his emphasis on staying with “not knowing,” the pleasure of kicking ideas around without having to come to conclusion, resolution, an outcome. The emphasis on exploring and discovering. That we can “listen for the space between” (lovely phrase) and that “confusion and uncertainty” may be “our new reality.” Uncertainty may be an accurate reflection of what is, something to sit with, because life is uncertain and trying to make it certain causes suffering.
We are all broken ornaments,
glinting in our worn-out work gloves,
foreclosed homes, ruined marriages,
from which shimmer our lives in their deepest truths,
blood from the wound,
broken ornaments —
when we lost our perfection and honored our imperfect sentiments, we were
Broken are the ghettos, barrios, trailer parks where gangs duel to death,
yet through the wretchedness a woman of sixty comes riding her rusty bicycle,
we bury in our hearts,
broken ornaments, accused, hunted, finding solace and refuge
we work, we worry, we love
but always with compassion
reflecting our blessings —
in our brokenness
thrives life, thrives light, thrives
the essence of our strength,
each of us a warm fragment,
broken off from the greater
ornament of the unseen,
then rejoined as dust,
to all this is.
— from “What is Broken Is What God Blesses” by Jimmy Santiago Baca (2009)
Thanks for checking in. And be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers wrote about.