A few weeks ago I met a friend for coffee at one of my favorite haunts on St. Paul’s Eastside. It is a cozy place that always displays local artist’s work on the walls and up a sunny staircase. I settled in with my cup of strong coffee and one of their signature spice cookies with brown-butter icing and began taking in the paintings that lined the equally buttery colored walls. Most were shadowy prints of people…probably musicians I know nothing about. But one painting grabbed my attention and I had to snap a photo of it…for its truth and its confrontation.
“We are all horrible & wonderful & figuring it out.” I thought of the truth of that statement and how I most often want it to be one or the other. We live, particularly in these days, in a world that draws stark black and white, either-or, dualistic pictures of our fellow humans. Being horrible usually means those who don’t agree with my way of seeing things, my way of being in the world. Being wonderful means, of course, all those folks who see the world with a lens pretty similar to my own. Walking the balance of this tightrope is a constant battle.
While I may argue with the notion of being horrible, I have certainly done horrible things and will likely do many more before I leave this Earth. I wish it weren’t so. All humans have done horrible acts. As one who holds with the idea that each of us is created in the image of the Sacred, I lean toward the idea of being wonderful. And that shade of wonderful is a gift to everyone…even those who have a drastically different take of what Creation holds than I do. It is humbling.
But the part of this piece of artwork that is most compelling to me is the “ & figuring it out” piece. Every day is an act and an art of ‘figuring it out’, isn’t it? Every day I get up and am confronted once again with the myriad choices of horrible and wonderful. It becomes the breakfast cereal of dailiness…horrible? wonderful? And sometimes the fine line between those two carry shadows that make choice perplexing.
This morning I read the teaching of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn: “I take one breath to let go, one breath to be here, one breath to ask now what?” It seems to me this is our daily work as those who are both horrible & wonderful & figuring it out. Breathe in..let go what might be nudging us toward horrible. Breathe…be here and embrace the wonderful in us and in the world. Breathe…as we figure out the ‘now what’? Over and over and over.
Each day is another opportunity to figure it out. The energy and presence we bring to the world is our chance to shine forth the wonderful image of the Holy in which we were all created. It will, I believe, take much deep breathing.
Ready, set, go….