On the Beauty of Fragility

When we look upon the external world and seeing a flower swaying in the breeze, two clouds gracefully combining forms, or a tiny blade of grass slipping through seams of dirt, we see beauty in the fragility of existence. Nothing is permanent and borders are permeable. Yet, inwards, we associate the same fragility as being of the order of the weak, brittle, frail or feeble. That is, in ourselves, we do not locate fragility in aesthetics, but in pragmatism, and it is considered practically useless to be fragile.

After all, so much of life demands the opposite of us. Our jobs (if you are part of the 80% of people who work in the service industry) will regularly bring us into contact with people who, despite not knowing a thing about us, will tell us where to shove our head. We will have troubles with money, with having enough time to see those whom we love, with taking offence to something our partner said; but we have things to do, places to go, and people to see. We do not have the time to allow ourselves to be deeply affected by such matters. We are, it appears, being eminently practical. We can’t work a 9-5 job, take care of the family, and prepare meals if we are busy feeling too deeply. So, we shut it down.

But in doing so, we are denying an essential part of our humanity. By not letting a problem at work, the strain of falling behind on bills, or an insult directed at us that we felt was quite true ‘get to us’, we are locking up the feeling self, telling it that it is none of its business, and thereby fragmenting ourselves. We have, most likely, a sneaking suspicion that if we were to really feel these things that they would ‘break us’ and reveal ourselves as the fragile creatures we are. Break then! Revel in your fragility, at least then you will be honest with yourself. We are afraid to allow ourselves to feel these things because it will demonstrate an essential truth that we have known all along: we are not in control and not as strong as we like to think we are. The tough guy attitude of not letting things get to us is just a game where we pretend to run the show when really, we don’t.

A healthy life is one where we can reconcile the fragments within ourselves. There is a distinction between fragments and parts. If I disassemble a watch, piece by piece, I will be left with a collection of parts that while separate, have an essential harmony and relationship with each other. If I take a hammer and smash the watch, I am left with fragments, pieces that are separate and have no working relationship with each other. Now, what we do to ourselves is similar to taking a hammer to the watch. When we tell ourselves we should not feel a certain way because it is soft, or weak, or feeble, we are taking a part of ourselves, denying it, and smashing it down. It becomes fragmented and we become increasingly unable to feel at all, because we are continually breaking the mechanics that make feeling possible. To be healthy requires us to stop fragmenting. Next time, rather than saying it is a wrong feeling or a weak feeling, simply feel and receive the message the feeling is sending you. If it shows you to be weak, fragile, and scared, so be it. Better to be honest than live an illusion of a strong self that has no need for certain feelings.

It is unfortunate that we fail to see the stories written in nature about fragility. Look at the flower. Its delightfully oversized petals balance on a stem no thicker than an ant. It does not stiffen against but instead allows itself to be swayed and swooped by the wind, it does not pretend it needs no sun to nurture it and that it can get along fine without it, but allows the sun to direct it throughout the day. The flower is clearly dependent on everything around it but revels in its interconnectedness, rather than seeing its dependence on everything else as a sign of weakness or a negation of its individuality.

Embracing fragility is paradoxically, a sign of strength. It shows you are not frightened to look at yourself as you are: as a being who is sometimes at fault, often wrong, and always needing assistance in some way or another. We say fragile people are weak because they allow things to ‘get to them’. Actually, these fragile souls are the most resilient of all because in the face of a lifetime of sorrow, pain and regret, they have still chosen to feel. To the ‘tough guys’ who hammer down on the fragile part of themselves, we must be compassionate, because in the attempt to be what was demanded of them, they found the only sensible option was to kill a part of themselves. To be fragile is, therefore, a testament to being human and should be celebrated as such.

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