by John Antonacci
A risk in becoming invested in any relationship; be it within a spiritual community, a romantic relationship, a career endeavor, a family situation, is the exposure of things about oneself that one would rather keep hidden. If we keep our distance regarding any of these relationships we can preserve the illusion of perfection (or at least admirability). The more intimately we become involved in a situation the greater the risk of exposure for our “warts”.
As we come together to form a spiritual community, we trust in God to interconnect us in a way that reflects her love. Think of a jigsaw puzzle, if the sides were all straight (perfect), it wouldn’t hold together very well. Our uneven edges (“warts”) are mysteriously interconnected to form a mosaic that is made both stronger and more interesting by our individual imperfections.
We see these mysteries throughout creation at all levels. I like to say, “what’s good for the cheetah is bad for the antelope”. Think of wolf reintroduction at Yellowstone. The program had many unexpected results, but the bottom line is that the entire ecosystem benefited from the reintroduction program. Even on a cosmic scale, we see stars and star systems forming from the more complex elements of their departed predecessors.
God doesn’t waste anything, especially not our misfortunes. There are countless examples of support groups of every kind made up of members who use their shared love to cope with their shared pain.
In a healthy spiritual community, it might be intuitive to assume that the love on which the community is based can overcome the imperfections of its various members. The more interesting question is, that thinking of ourselves as a healthy spiritual community, how do we cope with people, institutions and events around us which seem altogether at odds with our vision of love.
We risk falling into the trap of self-righteousness as we criticize our opponents. I believe we must take a larger view of Perfect Imperfection and first recognize the divine within our “enemies”. While this does not require us to accept their views, it does insist that we remember their belovedness in the eyes of God as we explain our point of view to them. Keeping in mind that loving persuasion is the only legitimate approach available to us, empathy and a sincere desire to connect with our adversaries are as important to our cause as our well-reasoned explanations (notice I avoid the use of the word “arguments” here).
The question becomes, as we move outside of the “safe zone” of general agreement within our community, can we have faith that the mysterious interconnection of creation exists even where we disagree with the motives and/or actions of those we are connected to. Where tension exists, can we let go of our societal obsession with “winning”, focus on relationships instead of immediate outcomes and remember that creation’s big picture is often beyond our self-centered vision.
This doesn’t mean that when faced with “defeat” we accept it as the “will of God”. We instead change our way of “keeping score”, focusing on the relationships we create in our set-backs and trusting that the conversations we start will bear fruit as we continue to strive towards our objectives. It must be true that disagreement within a relationship based on respect is preferable to hostility. It is in this environment that productive compromise might be reached (yes – I said it – compromise).
We exist in a universe full of mystery. As a culture and as individuals, we often fail to see the intricacies of creation. This can be the result of our self-centered predisposition or from simple ignorance (individually or as a species). So may we strive for progress rather than perfection. May we find humility as we try to decern what is “best”. May we remember that with LOVE at the core of our actions our failures are already redeemed.
There is a National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day and Global Cat Day, but I doubt there is a National Screwup Day or a Global Imperfection Day, so it is up to us to celebrate our imperfections every day.