I just finished reading a wonderful and poignant book about loss, renewal, community and family called Here if You Need Me. The author, Kate Braestrup, is a Unitarian minister and a chaplain for game wardens in Maine's Department of Law Enforcement. This is her first memoir, and her second one will be published in a few weeks.
As I read this book, I laughed, cried, questioned and reflected on the tenderness and vulnerability of our ordinary human lives. Here are a few gems:
I too want wildness, the existential freedom, the release and exaltation of being in and of a world in which humanity is only one dimension of the whole. (p. 141)
A miracle is not defined by an event. A miracle is defined by gratitude. (p. 181)
True love demands that, like a bride with her bouquet, you toss your fragile glass heart into the waiting crowd of living hands and trust that they will catch it. (p. 196)
These quotes from Braestrup's book remind me of how interconnected we all are, how our reality is shaped by the quality of our relationships with one another.
Later in the day, I listened to a podcast segment from Parker Palmer that also resonated with these themes of trust, freedom, vulnerability and faith. He said, among other things:
“It’s part of the
human condition that there be a gap between what we most profoundly aspire to
and how we live our daily lives. I think what people are looking for is simply a
smaller rather than a larger gap…an awareness that the gap exists and a desire
to close it.
"There’s no quest for perfection here….we have to introduce
another concept into the conversation which some of the spiritual traditions
call grace, which the street traditions call cutting each other some slack…
grace for the human condition, for those slip ups….and invite each other back
to try again and again and again.
"One way to portray this question of the divided life, or
living divided no more, is that every day, in all of our relationships, human
beings are asking, 'is the person I’m relating to here the same on the inside as
he or she appears to be or is trying to be on the outside?'…We hardly ever talk
about it, but I think unconsciously and powerfully, everybody is asking that
question, because human safety depends on the answer to that question in any
given relationship. And being safe is one of the most fundamental drives we have."
These are some of the ethical and existential questions that I ponder, wrestle with, and meditate on: how to bring compassion to human limitations, disappointments, and slip-ups, especially my own. Sometimes the biggest challenge is cutting ourselves some slack when we slip up, or get stuck, or fall short.
Forgiveness: a topic I expect to revisit again and again.
You can listen to the Parker Palmer podcast here: http://www.couragerenewal.org/images/stories/audio/newyear.mp3
And there is a great interview with Kate Braestrup on Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/presence-in-the-wild/