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OrdinaryTimes 1.40-TheBreak

Life brings two great classes of tragedies: The breakdown and The BIG break.

My break downs seemed every bit as subtle as my BIG breaks. Perhaps they arrived by bus to avoid blocking the driveway before slipping in through the barely cracked bathroom window. Every day fairly succeeded in replicating the days before until one day just could not repeat those yesterdays. I barely noticed. Nothing exploded. Nothing seemed to disappear. The Scientists claim that losing the vision in one eye elicits no immediately recognizable change in experience. Half of the screen does not go blank, or so it seems when the break down or the BIG break appears.

Nobody makes movies about this experience. Subtle works about as well in movies as it does in rock and roll. My senses have been blunted by Musak® and marquee lighting. Later, usually much later, my wallet feels lighter or heavier than usual and my suspicion starts. Suspicion, the -2.0 of acceptance, speaks no louder than whispers.

Few barter away their birthright. It slips away unseen, perhaps following the break down or the BIG break back out the bathroom window they intruded through. I do not know where it goes. I learn only later that it has gone.

Then the panicked search begins, as if I’d left that darn birthright in my other pants or on the guest room dresser. The search sparks the clear recognition of just how exceptional that birthright was and the creeping understanding that I never appreciated it until I found it missing. I might have deserved to lose it.

The balance of the story never bears telling. The birthright will not be found. It will be even more deeply appreciated as its absence prolongs. Some grieving ensues, remorse visits and drinks more wine than any proper guest should. It will not sleep through any night.

I suspect that I cannot experience my greatest gifts, and only begin to appreciate them after they are gone.

My friend told me a story this week. He’s a teen-ager, living five miles outside of a small Midwestern town. It’s a muggy summer night and he’s lonely. He wanders through the cornfield to the grassy creek bank, where he lies on his back to peer up into the twinkling sky. He realizes that he has no idea what he’s seeing when he looks up, but decides to accept the mystery. He reflects that he also has no idea who he might be in the world, and chooses to accept this mystery, too. He achieves a crude communion with these parallel great mysteries, and feels comforted, even powerful, holding relationship with them. He goes on to earn advanced degrees in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, learning much more than most of us ever absorb about those great mysteries he integrated in his youth. Perhaps his studies were never intended to resolve any mystery but deepen the communion.

One day he noticed that special relationship missing. He caught himself seeking to resolve the great mysteries rather than relate with them, and he felt a twinge of the hollowness only certainty ever brings.

Then, of course, my friend began the search, increasingly recognizing the value of what must have slipped through his hands at some inattentive moment. This new alarming mystery will not immediately qualify as a companion to the Great Mysteries he once found acceptable. With some time, perhaps it will.

I am not grieving my own Great Mysteries today, just looking for my misplaced acceptance of them. Perhaps I left my acceptance in my other trousers or on top of the guest room dresser. I cannot tell whether a breakdown or a BIG break was involved. Am I the unwitting victim or the disbelieving beneficiary?

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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