in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
I've spent a lot of time and creative energy in my life's journey encouraging, compelling, even challenging people to consider living a life of vulnerability and honesty, embracing all that comes our way, the pain along with the pleasure, in a spirit of complete openness.
I've pointed others to the image of Jesus on the cross, his arms opened wide to embrace all of creation, the savagery and suffering along with the beauty and blessedness, his heart literally bursting and bleeding with unconditional Love, his whole self given for the wholeness of our selves, his fullness of life emptied so that we might be filled with that same fullness of life.
One of the highest compliments I've ever given to another person is to be able to describe their life as an 'open book'.
It would seem, then, that the antithesis of my deepest beliefs would be anything that speaks of guarding against being completely and fully open to whatever we encounter along the pathway of life, outside of ourselves, within ourselves.
The only thing i seem to not be open to is closure.
And yet, when circumstances conspire to tear your life open to a point beyond breaking and even belief, you come to recognize not only the need, but also the value and importance of experiencing some closure, at least in certain areas of your life.
When parts of your mind and heart, your psyche and soul are wounded unexpectedly by myopic collusion and mind-blowing confusion, bitterness and betrayal masquerading as assurance and affinity, there may be something idealistic or even strangely romantic (or at least cathartic) about the notion of letting all the pain and shame out and exposing it to the world. In our current culture, this kind of openness can even be seen as a very healthy response to extreme trauma of any kind.
But at some point along the way, if that gaping wound is going to heal, it needs to close.
When the seed of a tiny life is taking its beautiful and precious shape in a mother's womb, it does this miraculous work in a naturally nurturing space that is closed.
When a seed of grain is planted in the soil, it needs to stay deep in that soil in order to take root and grow, flourishing underneath the surface of the earth that remains closed.
In fact, most everything that springs out and opens into the world as an expression of fresh hope and new life emerges out of a place where what is most delicate and fragile is safely and securely protected in closure.
But what about cliches that have some truth at least buried in them somewhere...like 'honesty is the best policy'...or 'a person of integrity has nothing to hide'...or 'the truth will set you free'?
To the first thought, i think of a great scene from one of the most underrated masterpieces of absurdist parody of all time, 'Top Secret!' The two main characters, Nick and Hilary, are meeting each other for the first time in dangerous circumstances.
Nick asks Hilary, 'Are you in some kind of trouble with the police?'
Hilary replies, 'Some things are better left unsaid.'
'Like what?' Nick inquires further.
And Hilary replies, 'Well, sometimes, when you blow your nose into a tissue and put it in your purse. Then you reach for your lipstick, and your hand gushes into it, and the snot goes all over...'
And Nick stops her and says, 'You're right. Some things are better left unsaid.'
Is it ALWAYS the 'best policy' to be completely honest with everyone at ALL times? Not in cases like this. And while honesty is indeed a virtue, living a life that includes having no unexpressed thoughts strikes me as being less 'virtuous' and more 'torturous' (at least for those having to endure all those expressed thoughts).
To the second thought, i ask a simple question: Excluding the very small percentage of people who may happen to live in nudist colonies, do you happen to know anyone in our Western culture who is living their life, privately and publicly, 24 hours a day, without any clothes on, totally buck nekkid? And if not, does that mean that no one in Western culture has any true integrity because they're 'hiding' a part of themselves by wearing clothing?
I know A LOT of fully clothed people who embody an incredible sense of integrity.
To the third thought...this is trickier, because at heart, i still want to believe (and even occasionally do believe) that the 'truth' truly does set people free from living under a burden of guilt and shame.
But there are times when sharing the 'truth' honestly can inflict so much psychological damage and hurt upon the person to whom it is being shared, it can end up being less an expression that leads to true freedom, and more an infliction of emotional violence that leaves one person feeling the 'freedom' of release, and the other suffering the affliction of new wounds, and possibly the re-opening of old wounds.
And there are other instances where the 'truth' that you know exists somewhere in the depths of your soul is still evolving, forming, becoming what it is truly meant to be. The forces shaping it may have resulted from experiences of excruciating pain and exhilarating pleasure and everything in between. But because it continues to be a work in progress, it remains too tender and tenuous to reveal. It needs to be kept in that space of safety, that nest of nurture, that womb of wondering and widening, until the time when it is ready to emerge from that place of closure. And if it is unearthed and unleashed too soon, it could end up raining destruction both upon those who hear it and the one who shares it.
And in these instances, who has truly been 'set free'?
i really don't know.
In fact, at this point in my life, i'm really not sure what is 'true'.
So i return to the person who coined the phrase in the first place.
And i remember how he responded when he was asked point blank to tell 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'...and when he was given a chance to respond to a less direct and more philosophical question from the man who would eventually order his execution.
'What IS truth?'
The embodiment of it asked to explain it.
To prove he had 'nothing to hide'.
To unleash the uncontainable torrent of transfiguration...to fling wide the portals of perception...to blow the whole world wide open.
And he did not utter a blessed word.
He did not demand his voice to be heard.
The people of power all thought him absurd.
And he kept his mouth closed.
Sometimes, the 'truth' is so distant and open, it's not even a pinprick of light on the black horizon.
Sometimes, the 'truth' is so intimate and close, you can't even touch it with a frail gesture.
Sometimes, the Truth simply calls you to be open to closure.
And to faintly trust that what is now closed within will gently and graciously, preciously and patiently be nourished and nurtured, hallowed and healed, and one day open...
into a self more fully formed
and redemptively realized,
awakened and alive,
forgiving and free.