Broken by the World. Isn’t Everyone?

In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.”

Young people often fail to understand Hemingway’s words. But age tends to reveal that which was previously hidden. With age comes a realization that Hemingway was right.

For most of my life, I didn’t feel broken. But that changed. I won’t get into all the ways it changed here. Or when. Suffice it to say the world broke me.

Whether I’m stronger at the broken places isn’t clear to me. Frankly, I’m skeptical. The concept seems trite and wishful. But I survived; that’s not debatable.

In the end, perhaps that’s our principal objective: survival. Perhaps everything else is collateral.

What I do appreciate more than I ever did when I was young is what a cruel and harsh place the world is. That’s not the complete story of course; there is much more to it than that. Beauty, pleasure, and love aren’t figments of our imaginations. They are as real as the cruelty. The harshness. The suffering. Yet they are unable to conquer those other things. They do not provide protection from the brokenness. Perhaps all they can do is to promote the healing and recovery.

It is what it is. That’s a hard concept to accept. It’s easier, and more comforting, to think we are more in control. To think that brokenness can be avoided. It’s alluring to think that the alternative to brokenness is not death but life in all its fullness.

Part of me loathes my brokenness. But part of me finds it liberating.

Part of me thinks my feelings about it are irrelevant. Part of me finds great significance in the brokenness.

In any case, it is what it is. Reason is of limited help.

Gratitude and grace do seem to flourish at the broken places. Moreover, together, they prepare a place for peace to reside, albeit under constant assault from resignation and regret.

Fear not the brokenness, my dear Vera. I don’t know if it will make you stronger. But I’m pretty certain it can be the door to something more special than the illusory perfection it destroys.

Peace and grace to you.

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