Tuesday, March 24, 2009


“Waiting at the airport on my suitcase,
a girl traveling from Spain
became my sudden friend,
though I did not learn her name.

And when the subway dimmed
a stranger lit my way.

This is the brotherhood of man.”

~ The Innocence Mission, Brotherhood of Man

Saturday, March 14, 2009

fine lines

“When all is dark and dusty down the tracks;
And all paths from exile have roadblocks

on all points saying ‘no way out of here,
go back to where you came from.’

Only the thunder knows
what drives a man in his darkest throes
Fortune and poverty,

they’re so close, so close.”

~ Mike Peters and The Alarm, Only the Thunder

Stories, and rumors of more losses, surface and loom with each day’s passing. Pausing during a coffee break, it occurred to me how many setbacks I hear about, at nearly every turn. People moving out of the region, a neighbor vacates without notice, and numerous plans must be minimized. Long-standing businesses and cultural fixtures dissolve or downsize. Many who elude job losses must navigate warily in threadbare and fearful environments. And still, across all situations, there are more who listen to personal testimonials that string together with broadcast news stories. Pondering this today, I started categorizing the relocation, layoff, dissolution, and transition stories I’ve been hearing daily. The listening is part of dignifying the need for individuals to tell their adventures. And it’s hard listening. But there are unspoken embers of hope when the language of defeat is superimposed by creative alternative plans. There seems a fine line dividing what we determine to be success or failure. Indeed, our realities are challenged when another reality visits upon us. Of course, we’d prefer to draw the lines, rather than to have them drawn for us by somebody else. In this continuum, we will surely note the changes in our midst. And somehow, in realizing all that is transitory, the status quo reveals an undertone of fragility.

When considering the meaning of fragile, what comes to mind is the breakable. My thoughts turn to this imagery when the permanently dependable looks precarious. The idea of fragility speaks of delicate plants, complex mechanisms, anything requiring sensitive and conscientious handling. Hopes and health. Though essential, easily forgotten. And paradoxically, through these, strength is found. Disrupted balances are causes to perceive well-being as hanging by a thread. Is the status quo as delicate as it appears, when stopping to think about it? Perhaps it’s best not to stop and think- or at least not to allow a focus on vulnerability to derail forward continuity. Peace of heart is, in itself, fragile- even if well-anchored in road-tested faith. The nature of dynamism is fluidity, which may be considered a fragility. But in vigilantly maintaining balance and a consistent openness to the Holy Spirit, flexible strength is reinforced. There is fragility in all that is dynamic, and although it may seem a conflict of terms, both require the depths of our patience. “Tears may endure for a night,” wrote the ancient Psalmist, “but song finds us in the morning,” hours during which reassuring joy is easier to discern. Oh, but to thrive against restrictive limitations! In these times, so many of us find ourselves taking stock in our most palatably compromised ways of functioning and making ends meet. But it need not cheapen our dreams.

As the road ahead must negotiate unpredictable detours, it is vital to be able to prosper through instability. Whether or not I can serve as a conduit of hope, my proximity to the wellsprings of promise requires steady vigilance. A most surprising moment occurred last week during a long-distance pilgrimage travel: At the heart of complicated logistics, commotion, and exhaustive music preparations- was a ten-minute silence amidst over 400 people. A forgiving, respirating, and transporting quiet. Afterwards, resuming my instrument to play the next piece, I thought about how I might find ten-minute slivers in my early mornings- or even lunch hours- to help balance frenetic work weeks. Confident aspiration is a long looking-forward, hopefulness a serious business to which we must take hold.

Reflecting upon the many stories I’ve listened to recently, along with the hard-worked years of my own, I think of how to arrive at consistency amidst instability. After seeing enough times how circumstances can delicately oscillate, my thoughts turn to how one can pivot the fine point from untenable to productive. While so much is said about “bad to worse,” or as a neighbor once said to me, “just worser and worser,” this is enjoining me to aspire through such darkness. A solid course of trust pursues a fine line through narrow gates, laying tracks of trust. One recent cold post-midnight, gazing through icy windows at silent streets, I thought of that dividing line between despair and confidence. How to press forward along the high road. Somehow, the most reassuring thought was to remind myself of where I am now, and how far I’ve traveled on this marathon voyage.

There are prospects yet to ascend. Within a vital perseverance must be a solid sense of durable certainty. Memory recalled the words of the imprisoned apostles, passed down from antiquity, referring to being held captive by their hopes. The fine line may be one of perception of circumstances, how derailing realities can be dealt with and interpreted. Fluid situations demand a readiness which must rise above the gravity of grimness. Indeed, thriving above undertones of instability requires more daring than before, challenging me to continually renew inwardly despite what is outward and perishable. At times the juxtaposition of enduring and impermanence is more obvious than others. For now, the present exposes such contrasts. As an artisan, I am aware that with an increase in contrast there comes an emergence of sharp edges and fine lines.