ImageWhat do you see? Is it broken or whole? Still useful? Beautiful or ugly? What of the transparency offered by the missing piece at the center? Is the cobalt web of the shattered glass or mosaic of colour beneath it the actual metaphor for all that is broken or perfect in our world, in us?

I witnessed a small philosophical dialogue on Facebook recently  – one in which I would normally NOT participate because the parties are truly some of the most visible and respected thought leaders of our day.  Amongst the post and comments were some from a dear friend going through a powerful and painful period of transition, a man (known to her, unknown to me) who I wanted to (verbally) slay at the sight of his words as well as the emotions and thoughts which often lay beneath the surface and between people where the intersection of life is raw and bleeding and such pain is disguised in the esoteric.

He wrote:

“Shattering glass as an image of transformation is a metaphor for irretrievable change with only fragments left, and the metaphor does not invite a sense of what comes next…”

She wrote:

“…I go back to the quote of Charles DuBois: “the important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” perhaps your question invites the possibility that one does not have to break to grow?! […] but some are stronger in the broken places. Onward… ”

I wrote:

“… shattered glass is, like the original solid pane, made up of silica crystals. Silica, fused quartz, has much higher working and melting temperatures than other types of glass. […] if in her shattered state, her molecules are finding themselves realigning into some other form that is more resilient, harder working, then the ‘irretrievable form’ is actually a WASTE byproduct of the catalyst of her change – and should be renewed, reused and recycled (or discarded). Silica heated to the point of tempering will keep glass from shattering and causing great harm – the glass in this image is NOT shattered (as in the shards are still part of a whole). The glass (in this state of grace) is held together to … cast prisms of infinite reflection.”  

(The image I chose is not the same which was being used to illustrate these transformative thoughts.)

Whether aspects of our individual lives, or the state of the whole of our planet, we are living in a deeply fragmented time. (I am sure every generation has felt the same.) Our environment and hearts are rive and while we need to catch our breath, pause and reflect it is a product of our cultural conditioning to keep moving – even as forward is uncertain.

ImageAs any who ‘know’ me are aware, I tend to treat my life much more like a twist-y road where the car and I cling to the pavement which hangs precariously on the edge of a mountain or the sea; I enjoy the ride but cannot see too far ahead – the curves both obscuring the ‘way’ and forcing my focus in the immediate. I don’t believe that seeing the long distance is what we should be seeking. Rather, just maybe, we can hope for the awareness of sublime beauty when it enters our lives – like coming across two rivers with their distinct mineral content and depth expressed by a contrast of their colours as they merge and become one. The same can be viewed in the glass image above.  Viewed with one perspective it’s broken, with another the photographers’ skill provides us with beauty as transcendent as sunlight reflecting and refracting across an expanse of clear water. Some things, as broken in smaller pieces, are more beautiful for their outward destruction – a precious gemstone in its state of refinement comes to mind. But, I think, it is the process of transformation, no matter how painful, where the purest essence of beauty is to be found – not always the end result.

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