Monday, May 20, 2013

The brokenness of sheds

Elements of the Dutch landscape - 9

We have met many sheds while walking the Dutch landscape, too many to include them all. Each one was a unique individual with its own personality. The sheds were more human than the farmhouses, more human than the livestock.

Often they were in advanced stages of disrepair and I was moved by their brokenness. But they didn't need my sympathy, they had a tough, proud character and were still useful (and used) in their state of dilapidated beauty.

Our walks often led through the Dutch "bible belt". Radically Calvinist terrain, empty streets, silent Sundays and people staring behind curtains. This set me on a meditative path about life, brokenness and the human condition.

In the Christian tradition, and especially in the Calvinist tradition, creation was broken from the start. When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they deviated from Gods plan and were banished from paradise. Today we still live in the ruins of original sin.

In the scientific tradition things are more simple. Everything is explained by the second law of thermodynamics and ever increasing entropy. The human condition. A given.

But when I think about brokenness I prefer the Kaballistic metaphor about "broken vessels that could not hold God's light". There still is hope for redemption. Obviously this is also the core of the Christian tradition, but we are often blind for well known  teachings. Fresh metaphors clear the eyes.

Next time you see an old shed look at it with awe and respect. You are looking in a mirror. This is your life, your world. What is your answer?

According to Jewish mystics the infinite God had to withdraw a little bit, create a little space, sort of like a womb in the heart of God’s being where the finite, physical universe could exist. This withdrawal of God is called tzimtzum. [1]
And, according to the myth, in this womb-like space there were a set of vessels designed to receive the divine light. God sent out a single beam of divine light that was supposed to be contained by these vessels. But things didn’t go according to plan. The divine light was too powerful and so the vessels shattered. Everything is broken. This shattering is called shevira. [1]
Brokenness is not a condition we usually desire, want, or even admit to. We typically associate brokenness with weakness, being incomplete, or something out of order. We don't strive to be broken. We don't pursue brokenness like we would wealth or fame or love. Yet, we are all broken. We are all weak, imperfect and in need, regardless of economic position or social status. Brokenness is the common denominator in all of humanity. We all come up short of perfection or wholeness. But no one seems to admit their brokenness. This is truly sad because there is beauty in brokenness. [2]
According to the Kaballistic myth, most of the light returned to God – but not all of it. Some of the divine light became trapped in the material world. And so the job of humanity is tikkun – the healing and restoration of creation. According to the myth, we heal this broken world by finding those divine sparks, bringing out the good that exists in everything and everyone. [1]
I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.
On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.

 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord."
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?
His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

[1] Quote about the "breaking of the vessels":
[2] Quote about beauty in brokenness:
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  1. Anonymous23 May, 2013

    shed (n.)
    "building for storage," late 15c., shadde, possibly a variant of shade (q.v.).
    shed (v.)
    "cast off," Old English sceadan, scadan "to divide, separate," strong verb (past tense scead, past participle sceadan), from Proto-Germanic *skaithanan (cf. Old Saxon skethan, Old Frisian sketha, Middle Dutch sceiden, Dutch scheiden, Old High German sceidan, German scheiden, Gothic skaidan), from *skaith "divide, split."

    This is probably related to PIE root *skei- "to cut, separate, divide, part, split" (cf. Sanskrit chid-, Greek skhizein, Latin scindere "to split;" Lithuanian skedzu "I make thin, separate, divide;" Old Irish scian "knife;"

    We may be shed split divided and broken but we become resourceful resilient courageous. We are weathered,baring the scars of our environment.

    retrrieved from

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