Taking Up the Fullness of Our Humanity

“The interesting person isn’t someone to whom obviously and outwardly interesting things have happened, someone who has travelled the world, met important dignitaries or been present at large geo-political events. Nor is it someone who speaks in learned terms about the weighty themes of culture, history or science. They are someone who has grown into an attentive, self-aware listener and a reliable honest correspondent of the tremors of their own mind and heart, and who can thereby give us faithful accounts of the pathos, drama and strangeness of being alive.” –Alain de Boton

We live in strange, mind-bending and, yes, even wondrous times. It’s especially important to remember the last one as frustration, despair and fear can all too easily hijack our senses, warping and distorting our perceptions of life such that we lose sight of its inherent beauty.

I love the quote above for the sensitive and decent way it conveys that the real project in life isn’t about being special or even necessarily ‘good’, it’s about living the fullness and complexity of our shared humanity. It’s about stepping back from whatever image of ourselves we may be invested in and subjecting those assumptions and desires to a reality check. This isn’t to invoke a sense of shame for all the ways in which we may fail to live up to such an image, but to get more deeply in touch with the tangle of dark and light elements that we are all inevitably composed of. It’s about learning to suspend judgment long enough to observe them, acknowledge them and figure out how to best work with them.

It’s about generating a broader context in which to understand and appreciate the difficulties present not only our own life, but the lives of others – difficulties which often don’t bring out the best in anyone. The trick is in opening up to the possibility that anger and despair aren’t the only reasonable responses to tragedy, loss and hard times. Patience could be another response and resilience fed by a grounded hope and knowledge that change is the only constant in life. Gotta pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go back at it in intelligently altered and heart-centered ways.

Yes, current political realities are (to say the least) cramping our style and threatening to make us all a lot less comfortable than we are used to being. These realities can’t be wished away only carefully observed and dealt with – one piece at a time.