This morning, I read from One Long River of Song, Notes on Wonder. It is a wonder to read exactly what one needs to hear at just the right time. It is a wonder that some , namely Brian Doyle, here, are able to put in words what is called for. I share with you in the event you may need to read this as well.
Excerpt from The Final Frontier by Brian Doyle
Of course you do your absolute best to find and hone and wield your divine gifts against the dark. You do your best to reach out tenderly to touch and elevate as many people as you can reach. You bring your naked love and defiant courage and salty grace to bear as much as you can, with all the attentiveness and humor you can muster. This life after all a miracle and we ought to pay fierce attention every moment, as much as possible.
But you can not control anything. You cannot order or command everything. You cannot fix and repair everything. You cannot protect your children from pain and loss and tragedy and illness. You cannot be sure you will always be married, let alone happily married. You cannot be sure you will always be employed, or healthy, or relatively sane.
All you can do is face the world with quiet grace and hope you make a sliver of difference. Humility does not mean self-abnegation, lassitude, detachment; it’s more calm recognition that you must trust in that which does not make sense, that which is unreasonable, illogical, silly, ridiculous, crazy by the measure of most of our culture. You must trust the you being the best possible you matters somehow. That trying to be an honest and tender parent will echo for centuries through your tribe. That doing your chosen work with creativity and diligence will shiver people far beyond your ken. That being an attentive and generous friend and citizen will prevent a thread or two of the social fabric from unraveling. And you must do all of this with the certain knowledge that you will never get proper credit for it, and in fact the vast majority of things you do right will go utterly unremarked. Humility, the final frontier, as my brother Kevin used to say. When we are young we build a self, a persona, a story in which to reside, or several selves in succession, or several at once, sometimes; when we are older we take on other roles and personas, other masks and duties; and you and I both know men and women who become trapped in the selves they worked so hard to build, so desperately imprisoned that sometimes they smash their lives simply to escape who they no longer wish to be; but finally, I think, if we are lucky, if we read the book of pain and loss with humility, we realize that we are all broken and small and brief, that none amongst us is ultimately more vulnerable or rich or famous or beautiful that another; and then, perhaps, we begin to understand something deep and true about humility.
That is what I know: that the small is huge, that the tiny is vast, that pain is part and parcel of the gift of joy, and that this is love, and then there is everything else. You either walk toward love or away from it with every breath you draw. Humility is the road to love. Humility, maybe, is love. That could be. I wouldn’t know; I’m a muddle and a conundrum shuffling slowly along the road, gaping in wonder, trying to see and say what is, trying to leave shreds and shards of ego along the road like wisps of litter and chaff.
One thought on “Excerpt from The Final Frontier”
This is beautiful. My Obama tee shirt is in the laundry. I will put this on for a few days instead, by reading it allowed every morning, to myself. Thank you.
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