We're told the way of the world will be won by big players and big ideas. Cultural landscapes, so we're told, shift with the tremors of voluminous visions and cataclysmic bursts when a people or an idea swells to an irrepressible quake. We are told these things, and perhaps those who tell us know what they're talking about. There are even a few spherical truths that have transformed me. So, I won't argue.
But I will offer an alternative account: my world turns on subtleties. That fresh path of freckles on Wyatt's nose. The coffee Miska made this morning, with extra grinds since she knows I prefer it stout. The friend bristling with anger but who, if you brush past the prickly and into the raw, you'll discover fear and maybe sadness too. That lone bird scooping the air with his broad wings. The tender curve of Miska's bare back. The midnight "I love you, dad," from a boy named Seth who can barely keep his eyes open. A God who became a man, a man with a name and a story.
On my run this morning, I stopped at a red light. A fellow walking to work downtown came up beside me. We stood there, ready to pounce on the flashing symbol telling us "Walk." He pulled out his ear buds and said, "I've seen you since the first of the year. You're doing a good job." My crosswalk mate noticed a face, a human. He pauses at the subtlety of a stranger. I'm glad he did.
Miska has these words from Mary Oliver up on our kitchen blackboard:
that light is an
invitation to happiness
and that happiness, when
it's done right, is a
kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
What Mary's offering is subtlety, no way around it.