Broken Things

Last night, I went grocery shopping. There is nothing particularly remarkable about that; I tend to do my grocery shopping roughly once a week unless there is some urgent need to do so more often. Nor was there anything about what I got to eat at the grocery store; I have a general list of foods I like to eat, and though I occasionally add and subtract form that list depending on taste and budget, I have generally consistent and unremarkable taste. However, there is one thing about my shopping trip that was noteworthy. While I was shopping I helped a fellow find some beef ribs in the meat section (for whatever reason, people always seem to be looking for help when I am around, and I help them out when I can), and it was only then that I realized that the shopping cart that I had gotten had a missing wheel on it.

While I was carting my groceries around in the janky [1] shopping cart, I pondered why I am naturally drawn to broken things. It is not even as if there is a conscious recognition of brokenness, but there must be some sort of subconscious picking up of subtle cues as to the broken nature of things that lead me automatically to give attention to broken things and to be drawn to them. I find this inclination deeply troubling in many ways. If I were a skilled person at repairing broken things, my inclination would be the opportunity for a lot of useful and important work, because then I could not only be drawn to things that were broken, but then I could go out and fix them and repair them and make them better. I don’t consider myself particularly gifted when it comes to repair, though. When it comes to mechanical tasks, I have very little aptitude. At best, I am a sort of finder of broken things that need to be fixed by other people, which is not very satisfying.

Nor is it merely broken items that I always seem to find without really looking for them. The same is true for people as well. In this particular case, I have some deeper understanding as to why I am drawn to outcasts and people who are particularly shy and awkward, because the same is true for me. Likewise, I find that a great number of the people I am naturally drawn to have a similar life story to my own. There is something intuitive that can be picked up about people (or things, apparently) that are broken. Sometimes that intuitive connection is simply used to seek after likeminded people for comfort and strength and safety in numbers. At other times it triggers protective instincts when others are being threatened. However, some people intuitively sense the brokenness of others and seek to target them as a predator stalks prey. This is a vastly more worrisome proposition, and I have always been deeply troubled when people assumed predatory motives for me that did not exist, given my own horrors at being targeted by others throughout the course of my life.

In this world there are a lot of broken things, and a lot of broken people. The world is a harsh place, and all too often that which is broken is simply tossed away or rejected, instead of repaired. It seems like such a waste to me that what is broken is not seen as worth being restored to its wholeness and that the focus is instead on replacing that which is old with what is new, and simply discarding something after using it up of all that one wants. There are moral questions embedded in our treatment of things, for the way in which we exploit items is the same way that we will exploit people in general. Indeed, it is our tendency as human beings to be exploitative that leads to so many people and items being broken in the first place, for we replace people in our lives just as readily as we break and replace our smart phones or computers or anything else. Perhaps it would be good if we were all better at repairing broken things than we were at breaking them in the first place; at least it would give us hope that we could mend the broken wings of the wounded souls that fill our broken world.


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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