Tuesday, January 24, 2017

...before somebody else gets it

Perhaps as our tribes get smaller and more specific and vulnerability increases, 
some of us link in an effort to bolster our ranks for protection. 
Whatever the means of the union, 
when the driving force is fear, animosity spirals upward. 

We walked on Glass Beach 1 in Ft. Bragg, CA a couple of years ago. Beaches 2 and 3 are in nearby inlets where waves crash through tall rock formations that tumble broken bottles and polish the pieces. From the park website: "It is hard to imagine this happening today, but back in 1906 when Fort Bragg’s streets were filled with rubble from devastation caused by the San Francisco Earthquake, using the ocean as a dump made perfect since. Seaside towns around the world have done it for centuries. From 1906 to 1967, everything from cars to batteries to bottles, cans and appliances were unceremoniously pushed over the cliffs into the ocean — a common practice of seaside cities for centuries. Mother Nature responded to this abuse with a nice surprise in the form of smooth, colored sea glass treasure in a rainbow of colors. However, it was finally in 1967, the North Coast Water Quality Board realized the mistake, the impact on water quality, and plans were begun for a new dump away from the ocean. If the sea glass is actually trash — from broken bottles and car tail lights, isn’t it free for the taking? Yes and no. Outside the state park, yes. Inside, no. Search for rare ruby reds (from pre-1967 auto tail lights) or sapphire gems from apothecary bottles. Snap a photo, but leave the glass behind for others to discover."

Full disclosure: even though we didn't walk on the park beach, we didn't pick up any of the shards that had been rejected by Tupperware-toting scavengers. It's not illegal outside of the park but the signs do ask visitors to take pictures, not sea glass. As we watched the surf, a family of five climbed and sorted, stuffing their pockets. The oldest boy pointed to the sign and the mother responded, "Take it before somebody else gets it." 

The paradox is that the polished sea gems so treasured by collectors were once no more than detritus. If we are willing to submit, our own broken bits are refined as time and experience grind away at the jagged, broken edges. In the process, we become wiser, humbler, kinder, more deliberate. The way is rigorous but this I know: when I review my own life - the whole of it - I am less apt to judge others. I know how it feels to be judged and I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone.

This cry for mercy is possible only when we are willing to confess that somehow, somewhere, 
we ourselves have something to do with our losses. 

Crying for mercy is a recognition that blaming God, the world, or others for our losses 
does not do full justice to the truth of who we are. 

At the moment we are willing to take responsibility, even for the pain we didn't cause directly, 
blaming is connected into an acknowledgement of our own role in human brokenness. 

A heart that [seeks mercy] knows that this human brokenness is not a fatal condition of which we have become the sad victims, but the bitter fruit of the human choice to say "No" to love.” 

Henri Nouwen 

Before somebody else gets it...a sad path to an epitaph