Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Paper Clothes: The Fragility of Living

Long ago Americans survived a fad in which fashionistas wore paper clothes—not for anything athletic, presumably. I recall the products as being dresses. At the time, I wondered how wearers would fare on a crowded subway or in a tearing wind or sitting around a campfire that was popping out sparks. The consistency of paper clothes had to be pretty hardy or the wearer’s day might turn out to be outstandingly embarrassing…and drafty. Perhaps since women of the time were often treated as though they were two-dimensional, paper seemed appropriate as a material. How did the song go? “I’m gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own…”

This week a beloved family member of mine survived major surgery and is now recuperating in my house. As I watch a young person who is an indomitable force in her own right step gingerly across the floor, wincing in pain, I can’t help but think about the vulnerability of the human body—male and female and every other gender expression. We trust our body to endure countless insults—accidents, diseases, careless behavior—even bad food. We act surprised when it fails. Yet when you see yourself in an x-ray, you realize we aren’t the super heroes we pretend to be. Our bodies are thin envelopes for our huge spirits. We’re easily crushed or torn.

Knowing we’re temporary and frail inspires some to wanton destruction—shooting or bombing or slashing—just to watch innocent life drain away. Why anyone would imagine he’s powerful simply because he has the ability to kill or destroy is a mystery to me. There’s no one who DOESN’T have the ability to kill or destroy. And what a sloppy way to make a statement—murdering people with whom you have no direct complaint or even connection. What kind of might does killing a child require? It’s so easy, many do it unintentionally. For anyone who believes life continues after death, a killer is damaging not the victim but himself…and, for a time, the people who loved having the victim in their lives. Doing harm to people is generally an act of weakness, not power.

Many of us embrace all levels of fear based on our vulnerability. We’re afraid of terrorists, hurricanes, earthquakes, car accidents, murder…on and on. Afraid that we’ll lose our lives, we throw them away by hiding from people who scare us and places that might be dangerous. We substitute onlooker or artificial thrills such as substance abuse, simplistic movies, and endless video screening for real experiences. We insist on living a “nice” life. We figure people who wear paper clothes shouldn’t play with fire.

But there’s another perspective to our dilemma. What if the fact that we’re fragile should remind us to live not recklessly but well: intensely—loving everyone we can as fiercely as we can and chugging long draughts of beauty and kindness as we stand up for all we value in this life? I suppose the answer depends on courage and freedom and where each of us is in our journey to self-development. What’s your takeaway?

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