Mine is a small life, one without the play of social media, unfettered by either fame or wealth. There are moments when I look back, stand on the edge of choices long done, and wondered if it has been enough. Have I done what I could with what I have? Should I have pursued more, initiated more, achieved more? And in those moments, humbled by circumstance and somehow still whole, I know something deeper.
There is a certain truth to the reality of human existence, to who we are as humans. We exist within a web of connections and synchronicity that binds each one of us to the others in this simultaneously flawed and marvelous state. Even without assent or consciousness, what happens to one influences and impacts others. To live to the best of self, to struggle with sameness and discover commonality, to be willing to try and to continue in the face of struggle, that is the score that defines even the smallest of lives, like mine. Because the choices of one of us truly does affect the whole of us.
There is an ambiguity now to the meaning and communication of who we are as human, and it is securely spliced between social media bytes. That instantaneous gratification of publishing shaves away the need for broader contexts or scenarios and allows for a social construction linked to the transient and the tsunami like waves of information that flow over, above, below and around us. It even limits the inquisitive, dashes the possibility of the skeptical. But even that, while opening up huge opportunities for so many, it also obscures the deeper reflective questioning that has brought us here to this moment.
Small lives, embedded such as they are in the ordinary and mundane, are no less and no more gifts than those characterized by fortune and fame. It is that reality that echoes in the pews of a synagogue or the kneelers of a church, in quiet hikes and simple gatherings of friends fully present to one another. Each of those instances is a reminder of how much each of us matters. There are so many reasons to dismiss one another today, to corner without compassion, to become judge and jury before becoming friend and family, even before acknowledging the brokenness of all.
The history of Catholicism, the stories, are rich with those who won fame and those who never quite managed. There is Clare of Assisi and the nearly anonymous women who followed her into the Life…one not existing without the other. There is the firmness , the conviction, of Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen. There is the rich assurance that “All shall be well.” And so, in some way that would undoubtedly be odd to another, that moment of kneeling within a congregation, of exploring small lives and larger-than-life ones, that is the reassurance that we all matter. That is the sense that each of us cares and is cared for, and that the possibilities are always continually unfolding.