Tuesday, January 31, 2012

human frailty

I've been writing today about fallibility.
about how try as we might (or, sometimes the opposite, with no attempt at all) we often fail to be our best selves.

ok, and by our best selves I suppose I mean as members of the human race, not as intellectuals, as athletes, as scholars, or as whatever we claim to be professionally.
it's scary to be authentic, to dig deep down and come up with what truly matters in any given situation, and then act upon it in a loving way.
it's much easier to acquiesce, to pretend things don't matter, to decline invitations, to turn a blind eye, to withdraw into cocoons of solitude, to play whatever the roles are we've so well learned how to play.

as part of the research I'm doing for the book I'm working on I am reading a book by kay jamison called an unquiet mind. the subject is bipolar disorder, the author, one who suffers from it. she mentions a poem by robert lowell--famous american poet, also afflicted with bipolar disorder--and I share it below for its powerful last line:


But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?

(the poem is a reflection on the "confessional" school of poetry, the form of poetry which Lowell is often considered to be the founder of. I know, I ended my sentence with a preposition. bad girl.)

why is it so easy to pretend nothing happened?
why do we struggle with admitting our shortcomings, our faults, our errors?
in counseling school children I often worked to help them understand that by accepting responsibility we are empowered, strengthened, kept whole. this is so very hard for many of us to believe, harder still to understand, often impossible to practice.

we hold expectations of ourselves, of groups, of foundations and organizations that stifle humanity. we try so hard, we box ourselves in, our weaknesses explode, we fail.
not always.
but across our lives we can pinpoint the points of explosion, implosion, failure, and if we're unable, others will help do it for us. these occurances are inevitable, and as leonard cohen said, it's those cracks that let the light shine in.

not a one of us is perfect.
the very fact of being human fills one with frailty and the potential to err.
it isn't until we admit this, speak it out loud, that we can begin to heal, whether its within ourselves, or part of a larger healing, outside ourselves.

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