Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in. –Leonard Cohen
When he was just a young boy growing up in the impoverished Ozarks of Missouri, my friend and spiritual mentor, E. Glenn Hinson, would hide in a closet to avoid his father’s drunken rages. When it sounded like his father had finally passed out, or at least calmed down, he would, with great trembling, crack the door of the closet. The tiniest crack of the door, Glenn reported, let in enough light that he and his siblings were calmed greatly. They could see around, see each other, and make some decisions as to what to do next. Glenn told me that just that little crack was enough light to give them hope. At 86 years old now, this metaphor has stayed with him his entire life.
So when a client came in recently with a poem of sorts that she had written since our last session, when she came in to share this remarkable healing insight, when she read the poem and I got tears in my eyes listening to her epiphany, when I commented on the astonishing sacredness of her experience and she said, “It was just a crack…just a small crack…and this wrote itself,” I was reminded again that sometimes all we need is a crack, just a little light, to make all the difference in our world.
Sometimes all we need is a crack, just a little light, to make all the difference in our world.
I think we get so closed up, so afraid of our stories, afraid of our imperfections, afraid of what might happen if we take the time to actually look at our lives, that it does truly get dark in there. And in that darkness, we rot. We forget what it feels like to have things illuminated. We become accustomed to the dark. We think the dark is all there is. We lose hope. We lose our Selves. We need to crack the door. Even the tiniest amount of light might help us see, know, and take a life-giving action.
Even the tiniest amount of light might help us see, know, and take a life-giving action.
in 1976, when I was 18 years old, I spent 5 months in Japan, as an exchange student of sorts. I fell in love with the Japanese people and the culture. While there I learned about an ancient Japanese philosophy called “wabi sabi”. Basically, wabi sabi is a worldview and also an aesthetic that is centered around imperfection and transcience. The three major concepts, taken from Buddhism, are these: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. A wabi sabi aesthetic reveres asymmetry, imperfections, natural beauty, simplicity, and sometimes roughness, especially in texture. Along with the wabi sabi worldview, I learned about a 500-year old artistic practice called kintsugi, literally “golden joinery”. In this practice, broken china and pottery are joined back together with liquid gold solutions. These pieces are revered for their cracks and imperfections.
Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.
How do you feel when you read the words, “nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect”? It certainly is not the “western” way of thinking. Most of us, I believe, are afraid of our imperfections. Take a moment and think about all the ways we hide them. The methods are endless, expensive, and exhausting. We also work hard in this culture to make things last that have long since changed, or died, or need to die. We are afraid of change. And we are equally afraid of allowing things to unfold in their own time. We want things finished. Done. Off our plates.
Perhaps we just need to crack the door in our personal lives. Things are not right. We are off kilter, out of touch, not living the way we know we could. Or it might be our professional or vocational lives that need the door cracked on them. What do we need to look at more clearly? Are we willing to allow the light of a cracked door to illuminate things we have kept in the dark?
So how do you crack the door? First, may I suggest recognizing that you are in the dark? What self-made closets are you hiding in? Where are you sitting in the dark and why? What is it you do not want to see or know? Just begin with those questions. Then, take some time to just be silent, to breathe, to soften. Are you ready for a little light? Can you crack the door, just a tad? You only need a little light to see around. It won’t overwhelm you, but you have to want to see. Your eyes will adjust slowly. That little bit of light might be just what you need to illumine your self-made closet.
Sometimes nighttime dreams can crack the door for us if we allow ourselves to notice. We might get helpful messages, hints about the light and the dark in our dreams. Who knows, with a little time, you may be ready to open the door wide enough to walk out.
My profession as therapist, spiritual director, and coach, allows people the opportunity to “crack the door”. In a session, deep listening and sacred time to talk might be just what is needed to allow a sliver of light into that dark, rotting place. I know in my own spiritual work, sacred time and sacred space are often all I need to crack the door on the darkness in my life. But Friends, know this; as I have written about before, you might just be the light shining through that cracked door for someone else. Someone may have that closet door cracked just a sliver, and you will be the light that allows them to see. So stay awake. Look for opportunities to be a sliver of light for someone else.
Life is messy, Friends. Crack the door, let in a little light and see what happens.