“And just as the mystery of air can only be entered by inhabiting the rhythms of inhaling and exhaling, the fragility of being here, uncovered by suffering, can only be entered by inhabiting the rhythms of aliveness and woundedness. Somewhere-inside each breath, inside each suffering-a wisdom waits, if we can enter and listen to the many ways that silence can sing.”
These words from Mark Nepo seem to resonate with those of us who are not fearful of new encounters with that which is mysterious. The mysteries of life are often taunting and tempting, daring us to seek meaning where only shadows loom, forcing us to simultaneously confront our power and our weakness.
This may be why some are drawn into the mysteries that surround us; there is the hope that in the encounter, fears can be confronted and unseen strength may be revealed. However, Nepo’s words do not just speak of the mysteries that abound in our everyday living; his words speak to the idea that life itself is a fragile mystery-one that is waiting to be uncovered.
It seems like every day I hear chilling stories of human tragedy that remind me of the fragility of life. My heart is broken when I hear of a father who straps his 2-year-old daughter into a car seat and throws the unknowing child off of a bridge into chilly waters that introduce her to death. I am baffled and bewildered when I read of a man who is senselessly murdered on a public bus in Queens. Agonizing grief overtakes me when I think of the violence in our urban centers that is ravaging a generation of young people.
How can you not mourn the brittleness of life when you hear of a mother being gunned down on a Brooklyn street, a star athlete in Harlem being murdered in the hallways of her building or innocent children being the unintended targets of stray bullets that respect no one? When confronted with absurd realities that seem unending, we often groan for meaning in an attempt to wrestle peace from chaos, but then we are sadly reminded that the absurd doesn’t always yield meaning.
This is why Nepo’s words are inviting to those who have labored to make sense of the tragedies that inhabit our days. Nepo suggests that the fragile mystery may not always be understood, but it can be uncovered, and it is our sufferings, our pains that uncover the “fragility of being here.”
I know this idea may be hard for some to accept or grasp, but just as the pain of child birth is the precursor to the first unassisted breath of a newborn, so too our pain has a way of giving birth to breath and life. Maybe our sufferings remind us that life, in all of its fragility and mystery, is an endless rhythm of aliveness and woundedness, joy and pain, breathing and bleeding.
I am convinced that somewhere inside each breath, inside each suffering, inside each tear, inside each smile, inside each hurt, inside each tragedy, inside each joy, wisdom waits, longing to make us wiser and stronger. Personally, I have discovered that my greatest moments of transformation have come at the places of my deepest wounds. So, in the face of the mystery, I breathe, I bleed and I live!