Week 1 – Brokenness

An Introduction…

In the next eight weeks, we are looking to explore and respond to eight consoling values in direct conflict to modern ideals. In this week’s theme of Brokenness, we are responding to the ideal of perfectionism and perfectability — the notion that we are or can be made perfect. Ideals are by definition, something to aspire to, a drive toward excellence or absolute perfection. Many religions are based in the transformative action of made being perfect, righteous, enlightened, or without blemish, and have grappled with human nature to be quite the opposite. As we move to a more post-religious society, we may not need to throw everything out — including how we respond to our consistent lack of perfection, righteousness, or enlightenment. We are all human striving towards the eternal ideal of perfection and in this pursuit, we fail and fall. This week’s theme is to elevate the vulnerability of failure, of brokenness, and of missing the mark.

Week 1 – Brokenness: Under this theme will sit photography that could help to reconcile us with our broken and imperfect nature, which would liberate us from the folly of perfectionism and render it safer to share our vulnerabilities with others. The goal is to feel less alone in our vulnerabilities.

Brokenness Prompts:

  • A photograph might show us the dichotomy of an outwardly successful life that harbors profound inner shame and despair.
  • Admission of our own strangeness and idiocy as a model for how to reveal our brokenness.
  • An antithesis of our modern digital age full of utopian visions and perfection through filters and alterations.
  • Something showing fragility, chaos, and folly.
  • Though we can imagine a paradise, we cannot build one.
  • Beautiful brokenness by lack of vanity or presumption.


We are inherently flawed and broken beings.

Perfection is beyond us.

Despite our intellience and our science, we will never tamp out stupidity and pain. Life will always continue to be — in central ways — about suffering. 

We are all, from close up, scared, unsure, full of regret, longing and error.

We are not unusual in our follies. The only people we can think of as ‘normal’ are those we don’t yet know very well. 

Recognition of our inherent madness, weakness and error should not be a source of shame. From it flows compassion for ourselves and generosity towards others. 

Knowing how to reveal our vulnerability and brokenness is the beginning of compassion and friendship.


*Excerpts from Chapter 4 & Chapter 6 in “A Replacement for Religion” by The School of Life.