Broken is beautiful … a reflection on community

I looked at the pile of glass tile, broken ceramic cups and cracked bowls dumped together in the box which was shoved underneath the work bench.  The thought, years ago, was that these could be used to create a beautiful mosaic.  It took me a while to retire the broken cup, but hiding it away to be resurrected for another use was comforting.  That was seven years ago.  As for the glass tile, these have some flecks that create interesting reflective properties, and they are quite pretty, but also pretty useless right now.  But when they are put together with others or broken into another shape they begin to reflect light.  As for other supplies, the tile nipper is nearby, a menacing looking tool, with 2 very sharp cutting wheels, yet quite ingenious in its ability to “nip” just the right amount of glass away to fit into a design.  Like a puzzle, each piece contributes to the whole.

All of these create a telling metaphor for me:  Sometimes I’m weighed down by the brokenness of the world, of people, and all this reminds of a collection of broken pieces.  In a pile, the brokenness is merely a mess, chaotic and useless, a reminder of its past life or potential.  Furthermore, some of the individual pieces can cause pain when handled because of all those sharp edges, yet in a mosaic the pieces reside nearby, sometimes quite snugly next to each other, stabilized by the grout.  In a mosaic, there is a combined ability to reflect the light optimally.  The effect is stunning.  (Early 12th century mosaics still tell their stories today).  Even jagged edges have a place in the design.  Interestingly, the mortar secures the design elements, the grout unifies it.  In contrast,  non-grouted designs can stay that way for quite a while, but a lot gets caught in the open spaces and channels, and the picture or design is incomplete.

Back to the title, what does this have to do with community?  Well, people belong together in all their brokenness.  I think of the mortar as shared histories, the foundation of community.  The grout is our shared lives, flowing between us.

Personal parallel – broken bits of my life are piled together and put away in a jumble in my mind.  Like  “giveaways” stashed in the garage to be sent to some donation center or displayed for sale at a garage sale.  Some memories are too messy to look at, yet too precious to throw away.  They take up a lot of “mental room” energy, occupy my dreams, inform my decisions, and remain sharp reminders of being unresolved.  When I share these memories, their worth increases sometimes becoming useful and even priceless because the re-telling helps someone else on their journey.


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