Posted by: MC | February 29, 2012

Leap Year and Minding the Gap

It happens relatively rarely in a lifetime, this date that adjusts for the inaccuracies in our calendar.  I can’t help but take comfort in the reminder that human ingenuity requires human fallibility.

Dine (Navajo) weavers, Yakama beadworkers, Appalachian quilters sometimes become so good at their crafts that they purposefully place mistakes in their work.  It’s an act of humility, recognition that nothing humanly constructed can be perfect.  Most of us don’t need to be intentionally imperfect, but we could all likely gain from a bit of acknowledgement of our flaws.  This goes for avoiding pretension as well as holding a bit more lightly the faults with which we can have such ruthless impatience.

Yesterday inside the DC beltway I had a conversation over morning coffee with a lawyer, mom of a teen who has spent most of her young life fending off crushing migraines.  This woman lives herself with considerable hearing impairment.  She wanted to talk about silence – about peace – about the responsibility each of us has for doing the profoundly intense work of coming to peace with ourselves, our families, our neighbors and communities.  “It’s all so noisy.  Like the noise I hear all the time because of this physical disorder,” she said.  She spoke of the trust issue at the base of coming to peace.  She spoke of ways every one of us chooses to trust or not every day all day.  “We have responsibilities.  We have choices.  Not everything and everyone can be trusted, but I want to get lots better at discerning.”  She went on to say that trusting the wisdom of regular people could go a long way to countering the major wages of trusting untrustworthy leadership and systems. 

She spoke in particular of authorities who give youth the idea that they are forever flawed.  “My daughter’s migraines are not who she is.  They are something she has and can, with dignity, learn to live with in ways that leave the rest of her vibrant and capable self to be happy and productive.  All kids are that way and we owe it to them to teach them that instead of teaching them to be dependent and defeated.”

Then this morning I had the chance to meet with Rose (Voice 070).  I’ve known Rose for 22 years now, since she was 6.  She is now a major force for the non-profit organization here on Manhattan that she’s served the past 6 years as a development specialist.  Rose’s work is in support of youth.  “I was a kid who benefitted so much for the opportunities I got,” she said.  “Starting with getting to go to a great high school – one that opened my sense of possibility so far beyond anything I’d ever imagined – I’ve had one opportunity after another and now I’m in this stable position with the privilege of thinking now about what next.”  That thought is sometimes – even often – unsettling to Rose.  The future doesn’t seem as obvious as the past appears, in hindsight, to have been.

That’s likely the way it is for all of us.  After all, we see where we’ve been, but we can’t see what’s next.

When a subway train arrives in London’s underground, the doors slide open and the recorded voice of a woman says, “Mind the gap.”  February 29 is a gap.  The silence and peace the lawyer in DC leans into are often most evident in spaces between the business – in the gaps.  The answers Rose seeks will emerge from such spaces and in her perfect imperfection she will move forward giving back to the world even as it continues naturally to give to her.

Change emerges from these gaps.  What endures leaps them.  Sticking with it i

I walk the streets of New York City between meetings today and watch the people moving past and alongside.  Lots of us.  For the vastly most part we do this with peace and cooperation.  These successes, the gaps between dramas, the strong points in the weave are many more than we generally acknowledge.  In all the noise of being alive with each other there is the possibility of stepping back – of minding the gap.

“Anna,” Voice 063 and a conservative businesswoman in Cobb County, GA who supported Sarah Palin’s vice presidency says, “Balance is so important.  There is the day to day stuff we have to figure out, but we also need to remember to step back and take a broader look – to get a little bit outside ourselves and consider the community and the coming generations.”

Anna’s words join those of most of the other 99 Voices to point to the powerful necessity of coming to peace within ourselves so the living together with each other becomes less fearful and dangerous.

A leap to take, and a gap worth minding.

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