I grew up in a world that liked it's boxes. It liked being able to slot people and activities and music and styles of dress and relationships and beliefs neatly into categories that they then used to judge those very beliefs and relationships and styles of dress and music and activities and people. The world I grew up in claimed it's boxes from a religious perspective but other worlds I know claim them from cultural, socio-economic or simply 'tribal' bases.
As humans of the 21st century we have got it into our heads that we can know all the things. That we can predict all the weather.That we can heal all the diseases. That we can guarantee that we will not only have food to eat, but that we can have exactly the right food to eat at this moment whenever we feel like it. That since we can put people into space and go to the moon and launch rockets that can destroy cities in moments and have a face-to-face conversation with someone 10,000 km away from us that surely we can be certain about what is wrong with us. Except that sometimes, even today, we can't.
I wrote on Monday about the importance of connection, and how much of a difference it has made in our lives. Then I wrote on Wednesday about the barriers we face to connection. (If you haven't had a chance to read these yet, I would really encourage you to go back and do so.) Today I want to finish this series by talking about how we can form connections wherever we are.
Many of us carry around inside of us the idea that fundamentally we're not worth very much. Through family, classmates, teachers, religious institutions or society at large we have come to view ourselves as inadequate - accepting at face value the idea that we have little to offer and much to be ashamed of. We worry that if we were ever to connect deeply with another person than the best we could expect would be judgement. These feelings of inadequacy make us reticent to connect with others because we (incorrectly) believe that we have nothing to contribute to the relationship and that others are better off without us.
I grew up a lonely and often-bullied or ostracized little girl. I wore hand-me-downs that were ten years old (and possibly out-dated when their original owners got them). I wore leg braces and running shoes - often with a dress, just to up the awkwardness of the look. I couldn't run and play easily on the playground. I was good at school and socially inept at the same time, which is a terrible combination. And I was constantly in pain. None of this made for an easy time building deep connections or relationships with those around me.
Whenever there is warfare, there is collateral damage. Innocent civilians die. Historic landmarks are obliterated. Food scarcity, people movements and disrupted social orders can all be expected. I've now been sick for a year, and although there has definitely been some collateral damage - loss of income, loss of mobility, loss of opportunities - I've realized there's also been some collateral beauty because of what's happened. So here's some of the good things that I've learned in the last year:
This is a picture of my husband, Trevor, walking the slackline. It's basically a horizontal bungee cord, upon which he somehow maintains some semblance of balance in spite of the fact that it bends and sways in response to the slightest breeze, much less his weight or movement! People see him walking on it in the park, and either assume they could never do it, or that it's easy. But it's actually neither. Most people (although sadly not me) could walk a slackline if they were willing to put in enough time and dedication and willingness-to-fall-off effort. Trevor spent weeks just trying to stand up on it, and then months more mastering the art of walking, turning, crouching and walking backwards on it. And there are others that have taken the art to the level of impressive, and can even do tricks on the slackline or cross deep canyons on a high rope! And I think that slacklining is a useful metaphor for us as we think about what it means to begin to live life over our centre.