There is hardly anything more jarring than a fall-from-grace story and certainly no shortage of real-life anecdotes playing out sometimes in public display with a bloodthirsty media (social or otherwise) circling then feasting like sharks on a whale fall—at times a slow, majestic descent and other times swift and crushing like a car crash evoking teary sadness and awe for onlookers resisting but unable to look away. There are no winners in these stories.
The tragedy lies in the shadows, the grey between black and white or the stuff hiding in plain sight. We see it, but pretend we don’t until the slippery slope crumbles. In literature, “Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods.” The tragic hero’s untenable wish to attain his earthly desires “inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature” (E. Davis). We know too with some certainty that, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “Nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). Try as we may, we cannot avoid our own karma.
Aristotle recognizes this element of individual, human flaw as the primary reason for mistakes causing one to fall. He asserts further that in so doing one will undergo a change in fortune or achieve some revelation about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. He “quite nicely terms this sort of recognition as a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate” (E. Davis).
Grace, by definition, is “simple elegance” or “courteous goodwill.” In action, it’s “bringing honor to someone or something simply by one’s presence.” If you’re fortunate in life, you will have known people who, by their very presence, make you feel like a better person, pure of heart with sincere intentions, and, if you’re extraordinarily fortunate, you will only know those people in the light of grace—no fall, not even a stumble—just perfect, unadulterated grace. Alas, true grace is rare and there is no grace without truth thus the pain of tremendous loss on the occasion of losing it.
I have long conceded, despite my many undeserved blessings, that mine is a life riddled with absolute flaw. Try though I may, lapses in judgment are inescapable, if not inevitable and I can’t blame anyone but myself. Still, I’d be lying to say I feel regret for my sweetest mistake of all—my cross to bear. All things come to an end, but “I would rather have had one breath of her hair and one touch of her hand than eternity without it. And, when [the angels of death] ask what I liked the best [in this life], I’ll tell them it was [her].” (City of Angels) Come what may.
Redemption comes in many forms and mine rests in people with grace, the children I am blessed to call my own and the numerous individuals with disabilities I’ve been able to help even if only a little. In this life, I’ve come to know that with great privilege, comes great responsibility and though we stumble and are often blinded by selfish desires, there is a confident expectation of something better to come through a life of service to others.
For Advocates at the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc., our mandate to protect the civil, legal, and human rights of people with disabilities is both a great privilege and great responsibility. Whether it’s offering voice to those who can’t speak for themselves, simply being a friend to those in mental/emotional crisis or charging through barriers of unwanted discrimination, we get as much as we give.
A little-known rule of three says that whatever energy we put into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned three-fold. I like to believe it’s a way for those who left us in this life to let us know they are either proud or disappointed in us—lest we forget they were here with eyes full of grace.
For more information about disability advocacy or other disability-related issues, feel free to call the NMPASI Office at (670) 235-7273/4 [voice] / 235-7275 [fax] or contact us on-line via www.nmpasi.org.