The broken manifests light. – A. Crowley
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. – K. Gibran
I am a deeply flawed individual. Nothing so tragic as Ophelia or Oedipus, but enough to root me firmly in the camp of the imperfect and weak…just like almost everyone else. I’ve always seen these flaws as fractures – breaks in what should be a perfect form. Weak points prone to interrupt the strength of the whole.
Several years ago I was in a course with Rich Doyle and was given fairly free reign for a term project. I choose to offer an analysis of Aleister Crowley’s “The Book of Lies”, and found myself focusing with a narrow and intense scrutiny on one phrase: “The broken manifests light.”
The class was one that pushed my creativity and my analytic skills even as I was inspired and comforted by my fellow classmates and my teacher. I was to present a sacred text to the class, and here I was fixating on one sentence. One simple, poignant sentence.
It turned out that that sentence was the only meaning I needed to pull from the text. In the midst of the rest of a grand, complex, deceptively thin volume of teasing brilliance, I wrapped around that concept and held it tight. The broken manifests light.
I imagined blackness. More black than any night sky I’d ever seen. And I imagined cracks forming, white light shooting through. I imagined myself shattering outwards and becoming something more than the sum of my frail, human parts.
This was new to me. Of course, as a child of the 1990’s I’d heard the litany of platitudes offered in Elementary school, about how each of us are different and unique. But they never said that your flaws could be your beauty, or the path to your understanding of the world. When I started thinking in this frame – that our weak and corrupt aspects are where we can shine – I started to experience something very strange; Instead of ignoring my faults, I picked at them. I honed in on them with laserlike, painful focus. I pried myself apart…and in doing so I set myself free.
Tonight I read a piece shared by a friend, who’s had experiences eerily similar to my own, and was reminded anew of this idea. Of embracing your fragility as opportunity for growth. As a gift. In it, the author writes:
“Welcome to the invitation to embrace your full complexity. Welcome to your greatest gift. The only reason your soul would choose to come here and experience such bondage and misery is to have an equally profound experience of freedom and joy. Surrender means you’re willing to be dismantled in the service of your larger intention.”
Take a long, hard look at yourself. I guarantee there’s something there. Something that’s maybe only a shadow in your mind. Something you glance at once in a while and then try to ignore, or that raises its ugly and insistent head until you quash it before anyone else sees. Maybe you’re so self conscious you only wear clothes that hide your body. Maybe you’re jealous of everyone your partner interacts with. Maybe you cling to being childlike so much that you can’t grow. Maybe you judge others, but not yourself. Maybe you’re an addict. A codependent. Lazy. Gluttonous. Greedy.
We’re all addicts in one way or another. Some people are simply addicted to being sad, or lonely, or in pain. We intoxicate ourselves with maladaptive behaviors, and cling to our suffering, because we’ve forgotten that joy, happiness, and freedom are possible in every moment.
Instead of trying to ignore that aspect of yourself, I’d suggest trying to investigate it. Do it gently at first, like in yoga – when moving into a pose, if you reach a point of tension or pain you back off just slightly, still pushing yourself but without injury. Your body adjusts in time, and you’re able to go further than before every time you do it. Your tensions are where you have the greatest opportunity for growth.
Perfection is rather boring, isn’t it? Merit is less in how well you can do something than in how far you’ve come. I can’t say I’m “cured” of addiction (and I suppose the perfect state would be never having fallen into it in the first place), but I can say that I’ve come further, and grown stronger, than most people who’ve never been so low. My journey has given me insight and understanding beyond what I would otherwise have had, and I have strengths I couldn’t have imagined when I was younger. I’m deeper, more complex and multifaceted, and stronger for my weakness. And I’m grateful for it.
And so we learn to recognize our messy, dysfunctional humanity as a source of both endless beauty and endless opportunity. Our outward selves – the collection of infinite roles we play throughout our days and with each person in our lives – are shells, of sorts. Where we’re weak, we have a chance to work our fingers into the cracks and pry apart our outer shells. Dig into our inner being and find ways to be better. Brighter. Beautiful.