I just finished watching the 8-part PBS series on the history of New York City. The PBS series on New York closes with former Governor Mario Cuomo quoting Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher. De Chardin said that, “One of the tricks in life is to convert everything into good.” You’re a sculptor and you have a stone with a scar in it. “So now you have to sculpt around that scar,” Cuomo says. “You’ve got to use that scar to make it part of whatever it is you’re going to produce that’s beautiful, and work with what you have. Play it as it lies. So whatever the circumstance, use it for good purpose.”
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. I don’t believe we are destined to go through this struggle or that hardship as some sort of predetermined development. As free thinking, free feeling individuals who have a tremendous ability to adapt to new information and new circumstances, we create reason and meaning from life. We can make good, as de Chardin encourages us to do, as Cuomo encouarges us to do. Even from the most horrible, tragic circumstances, we can learn and grow and help others do the same.
This work of making good is not easy. I’m not sure that it really comes naturally to anyone. However, on the other side of anger, grief, embarrassment, and disappointment, there lies a vast expanse of possibility if we choose to see it. Every day, we have the opportunity to take a look at our lives, the good and the bad, and draw conclusions and lessons to carry forward into tomorrow. Making meaning of what happens to us and to our communities is our greatest creative act. We are literally willing meaning into being. This is where our stories are spun, where our gifts come alive, where in the act of inferring meaning in our days they become meaning-full. Go there.