The most lovely beach pebbles have been rubbed and battered into smoothness. It’s not the most gentle process. Lovely things so often pass through fire, through radical change. Carved out of their original rock, or beaten and cut into shape, the process of becoming is so often a process of breaking as well.
This can be some consolation when life kicks you about. Just as the blade, or for that matter the ploughshare endures the heat of the forge, so to the mind becomes more than it was, through challenge, endurance, erosion, sculpting and other invasive experiences.
It’s not a one off thing, either. Some people seem to get more experience of being crafted by the universe than others, but it’s hard to tell from the outside. One man’s mountain is another man’s molehill, but without a few molehills, the chances of surviving the mountain unscathed are rather slim. What knocks one person down is merely a trial for another. We’re all different. Some of us show the process of being tested more than others.
There’s always the temptation to not go there. To buy off the problem, do the thing that would be easy, but intrinsically wrong. There is so often a smooth, simple path that lets us carry on as we were. Of course sometimes that one leads right up to a precipice, as we increase the size of the trial by trying to duck it. There’s only so much cheating of system any of us can do of course because in the end we die, everyone dies, the piper is paid and you can’t avoid that one forever.
I’ve met people for whom life has been – either by choice or accident – a pretty easy stroll so far. I also know people who have, out of necessity, and out of love, walked through hell. Sometimes more than once. The people who do it of their own free will, for the sake of something that needs to be done, are awe inspiring. They don’t tend to announce themselves or make a big deal out of what they do, but they work in places of pain, misery and horror, and they keep working, keep facing the hardest things in order to help, to make better. Somehow, the more it breaks them, the more they shine and the more powerful they become.
I recall reading a blog post months back (can’t remember where) talking about how, when you’re broken on the floor and sobbing such that snot comes out of your nose, you are also as powerful as it is possible to be. Because you care enough to be going through that. The only real insulation from pain, is apathy, and that’s a hideous, soul destroying price to pay for the illusion of comfort.
No snot-laden weeping here today. Just pausing to look at the strange and winding path I’ve travelled in these last few years, and to think about the burning beacons along the way. The people who were not afraid to weep. The people who walk into hell on a regular basis because life asks it of them. There’s this collective belief that strength is the absence of tears, the absence of breaking. It’s a brittle sort of strength, a cold strength at best and it can’t do much. The strength that comes in breaking, the power of being snapped open and having bits torn off… is terrifying. But on the dark days, its important to remember this stuff.