The fragility of the world, of life today, is in evidence everywhere—or, at least, everywhere it matters.

I think of the fragility of my two children who I so deeply wish to protect from any possible harm. The fragility of my dear, sweet mother, as she was raced again and yet again to the ER. I think of the fragility of our natural world. Of the people in Syria, the Ukraine, and the many other troubled places in the world. And of course, the ultimate fragility of my own beating heart.

But I cannot think of this fragility without also thinking of fierceness.

Not fierceness as in violence or aggressiveness, but fierceness of strength, pride, passion, spirit, brilliance. I mean the qualities that have seen humans through so many seemingly impossible spots—from nuclear brinksmanship to the everyday ways in which we manifest them in our daily lives.

I mean those human qualities that make life something that we instinctively fight tooth and nail for, even when it is frightening, even when it is painful, even when it is uncertain. I mean our fierce love of life—its beauties and difficulties both.

As I write this, I am sitting in what is unfortunately my cement backyard in Oakland, California. It is not a place I like, not a place that feels like home, though home, at the moment, it is.

And suddenly my eye catches first the shadow, then the flutter of a beautiful yellow and black butterfly, feasting on red flowers that droop from my neighbor’s yard over the wall into my own. And just like that, it makes me smile. An unexpected delight, a gift received.

Then, twenty minutes later, I am at the beach. The Pacific Ocean is before me. And I see the fragility of an old man hobbling on the boardwalk, leaning heavily on his walker, reliving, I imagine, an old love of the sand and the ocean.

A moment later, five young children tumble out of a car and rush to gather around the delight of a roly poly in the grass. To them, it appears fully engaging, thrilling even, until–

The next wonder calls. A bulldozer on the beach. The grass on the dunes. The water. Two big men cleaning an outhouse. It’s all there, the gentle grass and roaring bulldozer, the cool ocean water and decidedly less refreshing outhouse.

It’s all fascinating, enriching, enlivening–depending only, it seems, on how we see and experience it. Depending, that is, on what we bring to it.

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