I stand beside the boulder. That line is beautiful, I say. There is a crack, a seam, ripping through the right side of its face. It stands proud, screams at you, beating fists on chest. I exist! It yells. The rock wears the crack like a scar. It was all just too much. The pressure, the wind, the heat, movement, existence. Too much. It cracked. Crumbled. Fell apart. And it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
When I climb, I seek the rock’s imperfections and study them. How do I move, how do I cha-cha with the damaged parts of this face? I celebrate flaw. I hope for more. I think it’s beautiful. Thank God all rocks aren’t perfectly smooth, it would make climbing impossible.
My practice is to do this with people. To see their imperfections, all of their cracks and crimps and huecos and deep pockets, some of which may be still be soft, young, and tender to the touch because of lack of time. To see these things as beautiful, to see these things as something to hold on to, something to pull on. Get closer.
We must practice doing this with ourselves. To study the places of weakness, of cracking, of damage. To not see these imperfections as bad, but as something we can grip. Something to help us climb.
Sometimes these blemishes will be sharp. You will lose skin and probably bleed as you touch, as you squeeze, as you trust it with your weight. It will hurt.
I hit the rock with the palm of my hand a few times and listen. You can hear when it’s hollow. Do not hold on to these spots. They are not ready, they are too vulnerable. Choose a different place to pull. It may be damaged, but it will be strong.
Our hollow places, the parts of us that are scarred and cracked from loss are not empty. It is negative space. We must not only touch these places, but grip them. Move our fingers on their surface and shift our weight until it becomes comfortable or we can accept that it’s going to hurt for a minute. And then celebrate, for they are helping us move.