Growing in Public: Reliably Imperfect

The meeting table in my office is made in part from wood reclaimed from the treehouse beside our home. The treehouse was old and, as we all eventually do in our latter years, reluctantly made its peace with gravity. (It was falling down.) IMG_0717

The boards were cut from a white pine on the Healy farm and sawed in Jay Healy’s mill. They were left over from the construction of our hen house in the mid-1990s, and became part of the of west-facing wall of the treehouse. I pried them from that wall late last Fall.

Sometimes while working at this table my eye is drawn affectionately to the obvious flaws in the wood – nicks and gouges, stains and blemishes. To my eye anyway, its imperfection is an essential part of its beauty.

This is true for us also. Our imperfections, part of what makes us unique, are an essential part of our beauty as well. They offer to us an echo of our yearnings and ideals, our commitments and our striving. But we tend to not experience our imperfections in that way. Our own imperfections are more often for us a source of dismay and perhaps frustration. They may embarrass or even haunt us. And maybe give rise to a fierce (or feeble) determination to overcome them.

Fair enough. I won’t argue with any of these. I have experienced all of them.

But I encourage you to settle in with this truth: We are reliably imperfect around even the things we care most about. As human beings we were never designed to be perfect. Rather we appear to have been designed to be, well, human. And this, I have come to believe (most of the time), is a very good thing.

So again, we are reliably imperfect around even the things we care about most. Regardless of how fiercely determined we are to pursue whatever Platonic ideal we have of ourselves.

And here is an equally important corollary to that: That we are reliably imperfect around something, does not necessarily mean that we don’t care enough about it. More than anything else, it is a reminder that every one of us is subject to the same law of gravity. Which brings us down to earth, keeps our feet on the ground. Is part of being designed to be human.

Having our feet on the ground is a good and trustworthy place to be. It humbles us and invites us to see ourselves and the world around us through soft eyes. And it offers us great freedom. To risk growing through embracing the stretch and stumbling that all significant growth involves. To profess as important a cherished value or vision for our lives and then enjoy the journey with all of its inevitable setbacks and detours. To be fully at home in our own beautifully flawed lives.

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