Looking for Beauty, Finding Pain, and Moving Toward Wholeness

I love reading and listening and talking and being aware. One of my primary driving forces in life is curiosity. I don’t stop asking questions and researching and trying to find answers. From the moment I wake up until the moment I close my eyes (and sometimes even into my dreams), I am searching. It took me years to realize what I am searching for.

It is beauty. I am searching for beauty wherever I can find it.

One of the best parts of my job is that I am constantly exposed the newest and best independent American and international cinema. On a daily basis I get to see and hear what bright, talented, thoughtful artists are thinking and feeling. Independent films tend to be self-revelatory in a way that commercial films rarely are. They are often a passion project for the filmmaker, usually made by a small team, and almost always much more story and character-driven. I often feel like I’m being invited to take a peek into someone’s soul and it’s beautiful, moving, heart-breaking, painful, and awe-inspiring. There is something so human and connecting about honesty and vulnerability.

I also watch a lot of really great documentaries. Exposing stories and issues that are often under-represented – ┬ásometimes because they are about a voiceless segment of our society, sometimes because they are bringing attention to an issue that is shameful to us as culture, and sometimes because they are enlightening us to problems that the establishment would rather keep quiet. Once again I am invited to look into the lives of other people and it is often beautiful, moving, heart-breaking, painful, and awe-inspiring.

And though I find much beauty in my searching, I also find much ugliness, pain, and brokenness. It can be overwhelming to be exposed to the many great injustices in our world. It’s exhausting to my soul to feel concern and empathy and care for the world hunger crisis, for poverty in my own city, for cycles of family brokenness that seem unending, for victims of sexual assault and exploitation (this is probably the most difficult for my heart to bear), and so many other important issues.

Everything in me wants to rebel against the broken systems. I want to bring comfort to the hurting hearts. I want to end the cycles of hunger, pain, poverty, and abuse. I want to be a voice for those who are not heard. But I don’t know how. And there are too many problems, too much pain, and too many issues for me to even know where to start. I am already overwhelmed, worn out, and exhausted just caring; before I even start doing anything.

Then last week, as I was driving to work, I turned on a newly downloaded podcast and heard:
“It’s an act of rebellion to show up as someone trying to be whole and I would add, as someone who believes that there is a hidden wholeness beneath the very evident brokenness of our world.”

And I finally exhaled.

For an hour, I listened to two activists – one young woman and one old man – describe embracing a lifetime of rebellion. Yes, a lifetime. Not a viral social media campaign. Not a three-week trip to a poverty stricken part of the world. But a lifetime of rebellion.

And embracing a lifetime of rebellion means you need to be pursuing personal wholeness, developing a strong, healthy inner life, being active in an inter-generational community, and not caring too much about being efficient.

So today, I am embracing wholeness in myself, trying to involve myself in my community more fully, and seeking long-term solutions and goals. It will be long. It will be hard. It will be uncomfortable. It will probably be deeply painful at times. But I want to see beauty and know beauty and share beauty with others so deeply that I am willing to dedicate a lifetime to the pursuit.

(I highly recommend listening to the entire podcast because Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin are much more eloquent than I am.)