Sometimes, I think we valourize brokenness. We romanticize it, ennoble it, and tell beautiful stories about it but, baby, I’ve been broken, really really very broken, and the truth is that it just hurts. All the time, everywhere, it hurts. And the heart that is broken weeps in a million ways that words can never touch or reach. It just weeps. All the time, everywhere, it weeps.
Because there is suffering, there is pain, there is trauma, there is injury, and there is woundedness, but brokenness is different than all of these things. Brokenness does not simply change you. It becomes you. It overwhelms you. It annihilates you.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about brokenness and that line Karin Bergquist sings (“all my favorite people are broken”), because I recently had an opportunity to visit with two old and very dear friends and I learned that they are both crossing days off their calendars, unsure of how or why they keep waking up every morning, but they do and they do and they do, and I only needed to hug them and tell them I love them, and bear witness to their grief – one grieving the loss of a child, one grieving the loss of a life-long partner – to see the tears spring to their eyes and the words disappear from their mouths. And I saw a look appear on their faces, one that I recognized from my reflection in the mirror for many years. It was a look of confusion, of weariness, of pain, of being perplexed that they are somehow still alive even though it feels like they died a long, long time ago.
How often I longed to hold them, to cradle them in my arms, to kiss their faces, to stroke their hair, to rock them to sleep, and to be there to care for them when they awaken to the horror of it all again the next morning. I weep to see them weeping, I hurt to see them hurting, I grieve to see them grieving, but I know that, in their brokenness, they are alone. For a minute, I can hold them. For a minute, I can take the worst edge off of their pain, for a minute I can bear witness, for a minute we are getting through it together but, in a minute, I am gone and a minute later it will be as if I never was and the loneliness remains.
Instead of building civilizations around the accumulation of wealth and the desacralization of all else, I wish we had shaped our life together around practices of mutual care. Then, perhaps, loneliness would not be so ubiquitous and lethal.
This is a love song and a lament (and what lament is not a love song?). It is an acknowledgement. And one of the things I want to acknowledge is the observation that the world my people has created is one that seems hell-bent on destroying—often as cruelly as possible—the most loving, the most tender-hearted, the most courageous, the most insightful, and the most devoted of us. Because how can I tell you what a gift to the world (from the world, of the world) my friends are? They are not counted among the greats, they are not named in lists of influencers, in fact, very few people know them at all. But, even though I no longer believe in god or gods (at least as we are accustomed to speaking of such things), I remain convinced that our world would have been plunged into fire long ago if it were not for the few people like them who exist at any given time and who teach us what it means to love, what it means to be brave, what it means to be thoughtful, what it means to be devoted. And with the rise of neo-fascism I’ve been thinking a lot about the Manic Street Preachers’ song, “If You Tolerate This (then your children will be next)”, but it’s not just our children who are being prepped for slaughter – it’s also our lovers, our seers, our singers of the songs of the earth, and all those who recklessly serve life in the valley of the ever-growing shadow of death.
And, yeah, like Sean Bonnette sings, “I lost it when I learned about the tragedy of all of us,” but I am no longer broken. Scarred, sure, scared, sometimes, with various amputations and empty spaces inside of me, and with other elements grafted into me—a tree branch growing out of my knee, bacteria roaming my everywhere, feathers sprouting from my rib-cage, and some kind of mold slowly spreading under my right arm (I am, in other words, much less a rugged individual who has heroically gone through the fire and come out stronger, and much more a Frankenstein monster with porous boundaries frequently crossed and mixed with other beings and things). I doubt my younger selves would recognize me, but here I am, beyond brokenness, bearing witness to the brokenness of my friends, knowing what it is to break and knowing that there are no guarantees as to which way this will all play out.
And Jody and Daniel, how can I possible express the love I feel for you or the gratitude I feel for you or the ways in which you have loved me, and carried me, and transformed me? On my last trip out West, I found pieces of your broken hearts and I picked them up and now I carry them inside of me, and maybe this is why I now have so many empty places inside myself, so that I can carry the grieving hearts of my friends, and, inside of me, the pieces of your hearts beat and bleed and speak, and I listen and I tend to them, and I love you, I love you, I love you.