This blog and coming book are called No One Is Broken but they could just as easily be called Nothing Is Broken. It is really impossible for the first to be true and not the second. After all, the natural world isn’t broken. The natural world is not in argument with itself. Animals may kill one another, but this is the natural world consuming itself in order to create more of itself. Likewise, a desert is not a broken ocean, and an erupting volcano is not a misbehaving mountain. The natural world is doing exactly what it is meant to do, just as not one thing in this universe is meant to remain exactly the same forever, not even the stars.
But then we have people. We are also a part of the natural world, but with one powerful addition: an imagination. I love my imagination, I love using it, strengthening it, delighting in it, and yet it is also the source of all my suffering. It is through my imagination that I worry about the future and through my imagination that I relive some old grievance from the past. And it is my imagination that looks at someone’s behavior, even my son’s, and in a heartbeat concocts a story of a lifetime of failure and shame if that behavior never changes even though everything in the universe is perpetually changing.
It is the imagination, in short, that paints a picture of a broken world. I do not mean to demonize our imagination, however. It is an entirely loyal servant. If I casually ask myself, “What if Sawyer never changes?” then my loyal imagination will dutifully show me a dystopia where all is ruin. Interestingly, it was Sawyer’s relationship to his imagination that started this little journey. He could focus on the stories he was telling himself so intensely that we could not get his attention. I told him once that it was as if he had a superpower, and that it his job to learn to master it so it wasn’t mastering him.
But we all have this same superpower. When I see a broken world, I am really seeing a story I am telling myself. If I do not recognize it as a story, then I will try to fix that world. This is what I often found myself doing with Sawyer early on. Fixing problems that don’t exist only creates more problems that don’t exist that need more fixing. It is an endless and exhausting and cycle.
Sawyer taught me to question what I was calling reality. If no one is broken, I eventually asked myself, and if I am seeing a broken person, I must be seeing that person inaccurately. If no one is broken, if nothing is broken, what am I actually seeing that I am calling broken? Now my loyal imagination shows me another world. My imagination is capable of showing me as many worlds as I have questions. It doesn’t care; it doesn’t judge. It is happy to provide whatever I ask for.
I know that if you are reading this you are probably an adult. I know an adult is supposed to be responsible and realistic. I know the children for whom you feel responsible can toddle about in their pretend worlds, but you must contend with life at is actually is. You’re the one paying the bills and cooking the meals and voting for presidents. But if you want to be really responsible, begin with your imagination. Use it responsibly. Ask it to show you the world you want to live in, and you may discover that you already do.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.