Your Moment Does Not Define You

Have you ever seen a flock of starlings? They fly in concert, soaring and swooping together to create the most amazing shapes, like some sort of fluid sculpture. They look like waves, or leaves on the wind, or mercury spilled on a table. They’re mesmerizing.

The image sprung to my mind last night while I was thinking about how complicated and tortured and breathtakingly beautiful people can be.

Passion, fear, resentment, pain, reckoning, love, redemption, humility, kindness – we’re capable of them all. A single person can experience each in turn, acting out some soaring, swooping shape of emotion and action over the course of her life, or even a short span of time.

I see one person indulge his anger and resentment for years, nurturing it, acting it out, encouraging others to do the same. Until one day something breaks in him. A word of love breaks through. And his struggle, though still there, has taken a new shape.

Another person, angry at the first, doesn’t recognize that she follows his swoop. Anxiety and resentment drive her downward. She has not yet pulled up.

One person glides along gradually, her experience an undulating line. Another has spent her whole life swirling and diving, soaring and rising. She knows more pain than most. But she also knows salvation.

We are not static creatures. We grow and change and make mistakes. We learn. We seek. We crash and get back up again.

We must remember, when encountering others in the world, that each is on his own course. The person you’ve just clashed with may be on a downward swoop. He may be in a hard place. But he’s not done. That moment does not define him.

You’re not done either. Your moment does not define you. You’re somewhere on your waving, winding way, heading up or down or around.

We do not ride a rollercoaster. Our course isn’t set in steel, devised by a team of engineers for maximum fright. We soar and swoop like starlings. Our course is adjusted by the wind, the landscape, the creatures around us, but we fly it. We have agency. We can choose whether, over a stretch of dips and leaps and swirls, we are heading toward the heavens or the earth.

People, man. People can be stubborn and complicated and difficult, but back up a bit, take it all in, and you’ll see the beauty too. Breathtaking.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Attribution: Walter Baxter / A wedge of starlings. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.)*

*This is my first time posting anything from Wikimedia Commons. If I did it wrong, I’m happy to correct my mistake!

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