The summer that my oldest brother was to turn 50, all four of us Francis men decided to celebrate his milestone birthday by hiking the Grand Canyon (see picture below after hiking the north rim to the south rim in the same day- 23.9 miles in 16 hours).
The Canyon is a marvel- the rocks tell old tales of prehistoric events that carved out this... space! And that's what it is: s-p-a-c-e... defined, for sure, by the beautiful sides and slopes and the Colorado River. 10 miles across and 277 miles long, it's a lot of SPACE.
That is precisely what beautiful buildings and parks are designed to do- provide a structure in which people can move into a space appropriate to the activity: a museum invites awe and information; a church inspires peace and devotion; a city garden prompts beauty and creativity.
On the other hand, there are those moments which hem us in and the walls might seem too close. Perhaps the time of COVID has made it even more difficult. Some people, when experiencing anxiety, say that they find it literally hard to breathe- as if the problems and tension are squeezing them into a tight space. It's no wonder that mental health practitioners and meditation masters alike all begin by telling their clients to breathe.
The beauty of the Grand Canyon is that it's a marvel for what it's missing. Geologists estimate that it is eroding at a rate of 1 foot every 200 years. The more rock that gets swept away the deeper it gets. Hmmm, could there be a lesson here? Always!
Pema Chodron writes (in When Things Fall Apart):
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all."
For more about the grace of brokenness, go to "Growing Stronger at Broken Places".