“The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” – Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
“What Ruth has known all along: what will happen can’t be stopped. Aim for grace.” – Ann Beattie (Learning to Fall)
I love both of these passages, which seem to me to be saying different versions of the same thing. I’ve written before about how I feel I’m circling and circling, sometimes, not making progress enough, saying the same things over and over. Sometimes this frustrates me, makes me feel stuck. On other days the message coming at me externally (as in these two quotes, and in the bird I found sheltering in my porch the other night) and bubbling up internally (the aforementioned circling and circling) is so consistent, so strong and powerful, that I realize I ought to just put everything down and listen to it.
This is one of those messages. In fact, I suspect that, at least for me, this is the message.
Life – grace, beauty, peace, whatever you want to think of it as – is just right here. And white-knuckling my way through it doesn’t do anything but exhaust me. Things are unfolding in a way that I have much less control over than I’d like to believe, and the best I can do is open my eyes and see. Not miss, in my desperate, soul-depleting efforts to manage destiny, the gorgeousness that is at my feet right now.
Remarkable as it may be, the world seems to spin without me personally doing the spinning. It has taken me 36 years to really learn this. In fact, if I’m honest, I’m still learning it. The freedom that comes with letting go is immense, and I’ve tasted it, though I’m not always able to remember that. The lesson for me is to do so in a more complete way. Letting go – accepting that what will be will be, as Beattie says, enables a complete shift in perspective: instead of being a lamentation of what is not, life becomes a benediction of what is.
All we can do is show up. Isn’t this what the poets have been saying, since the beginning of time? And the priests, too? Yes, yes it is. Just by being in this world, banal and brilliant, where majesty and mediocrity coexist in every single moment, we are witness to beauty and grace. All we have to do is be there. And to watch.
A repost from 11/11/10. And yes, I am still circling, still making the same observation, still learning the same lesson.