Tag Archives: Advent

An Imperfect Concord

“Somebody could walk into this room and say ‘your life is on fire. It’s all over the evening news, all about the fire in your life on the evening news…'” (Paul Simon, “Crazy Love, Vol. II”)

Words are like maps. You unfold them and they can take you to unexpected, delightful places. The word “imperfect,” for example, has etymological roots in areas ranging from law to botany to music. In music, one of the definitions of “imperfect” is: “a cadence ending on some chord other than the direct chord of the tonic, usually that of the dominant, and having the effect of a partial close or stop” (Oxford English Dictionary). I have no idea what this means, so I asked someone who does, and he told me to think of it as the combining of notes that are dissonant or inharmonious. “Is it a mistake or can it happen on purpose?” I asked. He sort of laughed and said, “It depends what effect you’re trying to have.”

The sound of a police siren or fire engine, especially the ones you hear in European cities (click to hear one) is an example of this kind of deliberate dissonance. It’s loud, irritating and disruptive, and it’s that way on purpose; its intent is to get your attention. Somewhere there is a problem, someone is in trouble, someone needs help. It might even be you. It might be your life that’s on fire.

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Pieced Together: The Strength of the Imperfect: An Invitation to Advent 2013

Welcome to Advent 2013 at From the Heart. This season I’m contemplating imperfection, and you are invited to join me. A very lucky fortunate thing happened to me a few weeks ago: I had an important dream, a guidepost dream, one of those dreams that feels like a visit with the force that knows what your life is meant to be about. I dreamt of broken things–boxes filled with cracked porcelain and shards of blue-green glass, rooms of strange pieces of furniture that didn’t belong together but were somehow beautiful, and people I know who are messy and flawed but authentic and deeply human.

The phrase that kept repeating itself throughout the dream was “pieced together,” and I dragged it with me through that time between sleeping and waking like a fish flailing and heavy on the line. Fully awake, I felt like someone collapsing on the shore with a kind of hard-earned sustenance in my arms.

“Pieced together” is what my life looks like right now–broken, scary, confusing, and somehow powerfully real. Perhaps the most powerful part is seeing more clearly how many of us live just this way–with jagged pieces of our lives that don’t fit together, that don’t make sense, that hurt, and yet must be held and carried right alongside the pieces that are smooth and whole.

okayMaybe it’s illness, or loss, pain, grief, fear–whatever we didn’t ask for but arrived anyway and can’t be shaken off. What I hope for this Advent is to believe that there is treasure in a pieced together, imperfect life, and to figure out how to find and share it. I hope you’ll be here with me.

Below, a lovely poem that recently appeared on the Writer’s Almanac, a hymn to Mary by, surprisingly, Edgar Allan Poe. Note the hopefulness in the request that Mary be present in both bright and dark times, and let it remind us that there is tremendous power in the humble act of asking for what we need.

Hymn

At morn—at noon—at twilight dim—
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and wo—in good and ill—
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;
Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
“With sweet hopes of thee and thine!

Edgar Allan Poe

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