Monday, January 21, 2008

Penn Station

Penn station at 5:20 AM is an interesting experience. I was one of a minority to be there using it as a starting point. For the vast majority of the others there at that time, it was less a point of origin than a point of passing through on a transient journey from locations unknown to futures uncertain. As I made my way from street level to the New Jersey Transit section, I passed more than eighty people sleeping, resting, or simply crouching against the bitter cold outside.

In telling someone about seeing all of the people, how calculated their positioning—so as to protect what company they kept, be it meager belongings or another person— she said, “Oh, it breaks your heart, doesn’t it?” I had to say to myself that no, that was not my reaction.

It is not heartbreaking for me to see what I saw. This leads to the logical introspective question, What IS it to me to see the dozens upon dozens of people who had no other place to go but a stretch of floor, a corner for the lucky ones? If not heart breaking, then what? Stirring. Stirring many things, not breaking. Somehow, I don’t think my heart will break—or at least not with any regularity or ease. It’s meant to be stronger than that. Which is not to say that I am not called to recognize the brokenness in myself. That I certainly believe to be a call— a call to greater humanity, greater wholeness. But my heart? It swells, it clutches and contracts, it beats and even skips a beat now and then… but it remains.

The thing to me is that the pierced heart of Christ keeps beating. The pierced heart, the one open to woundedness, not closed off, the heart breached, not broken by the pain of the world, keeps beating yet today. But, I ask myself, what of the crucifixion? “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” What of “Today you will be with me in paradise?” How does it all go together?

To me, the cry of being forgotten is a bigger, more potable rent, than the piercing with the lance. Being forgotten was (is) felt via humanity. The lance was after death, when evil has no place, no hold, no claim. In either/both cases, though, the story continues—the heart remains, beating, alive in one way or vision or another. If it didn’t, if I didn’t feel it within me, sense it with my very being, then what would be the point? I think one of the gifts of the Christian story is that you can be wounded but not broken. In fact, to be the most whole and complete part of the story, you come to see that you ARE wounded but not broken.

This wound somehow lets the light through. Without it, how does life move through me? There is no release that relaxes the structure. Without the ingress of life, the world, it is the self sustaining the self… a high demand to make. Sooner or later, something gives. I actually think the natural tendency is toward the heart being breached, but a lot of energy and cultural norms are expended trying to have people go the other direction… to be individualistic rather than relational, independent rather than interdependent…

But, really, who wants to be forgotten, left behind? Who wants, ultimately, to be alone in this world? Who doesn’t want to be reminded in one way or another of where they will be at the end of days? Relationships and knowledge beget wounds, true, but light also comes through…and it’s the light that will triumph, no matter how dark the darkness. The heart will not be broken, though pierced, breached, opened.

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