Imperfection – the Way of Transformation

November 2015

I recently attended my favorite 12 Step meeting where I was moved to tears by the speaker’s share, not necessarily a new experience at this particular meeting. What was new for me was an insight that accompanied my emotional state. While I felt very moved by the speaker, I knew it wasn’t her share in particular that touched me but all the shares that preceded hers over the past eleven years.

I first attended one of these meetings after a friend suggested it, knowing how much I valued the 12 Step process. While I did not suffer from this particular addiction, I was very moved by the very first meeting I attended, which fortunately was an “open meeting” (meaning anyone could attend).

What is particularly notable about this meeting – it takes place at 6AM! I have never regretted getting up that early in the morning to make the meeting. “Better than any church service I have even attended,” was my response after that first meeting. The experience was so valuable I have attended several days a week ever since – probably over 3,000 meetings to date.

Back to my insight. While I have been emotionally stirred many, many times at this meeting I realized that all these stirring shares have one thing in common – what is shared is real, honest and authentic. I find this level of vulnerability so very refreshing in today’s world, where opinion and ideology obfuscates any revelation of who is speaking, who is sharing, who is this person…really!

The day after this memorable meeting I paused upon poet Mark Nepo’s daily reading*:

The sweetness of living comes to us when the very humanness we regret and try to hide, our seeming flaws and shameful secrets, are worked by time and nature into a honey all their own. Ultimately, it is where we are not perfect – where we are broken and cracked, where the wind whistles through – that is the stuff of transformation.

 As I read Nepo’s offering I was reminded of the refrain from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” which goes like this:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Here is the closing for an Independent column by British blogger Howard Jacobson who references Cohen’s song:

That’s how the light gets in. Savour that! …..We were born flawed. Flawed is how we were designed to be. Which means we don’t need redeeming after all. Light? Why go searching for light? The light already shines from us. It got in through our failings.

So our imperfections, our “cracks”, our failings – these are how we transform, how we let the light in. As Cohen reminds us, “forget your perfect offering.”

*The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo, Conari Press, 2001

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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