“Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.”
Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones” always gives me pause. This is only a portion of the poem, but it is the part that always intrigues, if not challenges me. Specifically, I appreciate the juxtaposition between naming the deep difficulties of present reality, and the hope of the transformational agency we can bring to reality.
In my experience, there is a sweet spot where we can hold onto the rope of life and steadily embrace the tension between doomsday and fantasy island. It is important to acknowledge there is much brokenness in humanity. This brokenness often shoots out into the world like a thousand BBs both intentionally and randomly wounding others. It is as important to acknowledge there is immeasurable capacity within each of us to bring healing to the wounds of the world.
Each of us has a choice. Each of us has agency. My colleague Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, frequently encourages folks in our meetings and gatherings to be “half a shade braver today”. This concept originates from Catherine’s colleague, poet and philosopher David Whyte’s seminal writings on Half a Shade Braver – The Tiny, Transformative Discipline Of An Everyday Life. “…the micro-disciplines of an everyday life: those small, everyday steps – sometimes just half-steps – that can radically transform our approach to the future. Practices where we are not trying to become an Olympic hero, but where we change our future for the better by becoming just half a shade braver in almost everything we do.”
“This place could be beautiful right? You could make this place beautiful.” Imagine if each of us fully embraces the brokenness of humanity- AND – each of us makes the the choice to use our agency to bring healing to the wounds of the world by being a half a shade braver today.