We are on our way to Medjugorje, where some people see visions of the Virgin Mary and miracles are reported. We will be stopping in Zagreb and Split, Croatia, on the way.
We visit the Cathedral of Zagreb (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), the tallest building in Croatia. It’s construction began in 1043 but the building was destroyed by the Tartars in 1242. It was fortified at the end of the 15th century as a defense against the Ottoman Empire and was severely damaged in the 1880 Zagreb earthquake. Does this give you a feeling for the struggle involved?
Inside, it is dark. I pray for you. I seek a way to construct a story that will reach into your heart. The heart is a mystery, isn’t it?
We walk around Zagreb and eventually find the Museum of Broken Relationships. It features exhibits gathered during an international tour — objects and text submitted by people commemorating failed relationships.
Inside is the museum and a cafe, but I see no one in the cafe. It looks lonely in the Cafe of Broken Relationships. I spoke with the attractive girl collecting the admission fees. Her precious relationship ended about a year ago and she isn’t looking for anyone new.
A grandmother’s exhibit reflects a relationship broken by death — Karlo, who drowned in a river. Other exhibits portray hopeless teen love, destined to fail yet coupled with overwhelming passion. One woman submits a photograph, explaining that it was of the place “where I saw my first penis in the sunlight.”
A woman submits two champaign glasses, one of which is broken. She tells of a 22-year relationship that failed.
It troubles me to read these stories. Few people expect failure when they begin a relationship.
I watch people silently read the text connected to each object. How can we feel secure about our own relationships when many report seemingly unavoidable sad endings. It seems that each of us suffer from delusions with regard to love. We are not rational in this area.
There are many young people in the museum. How many future heart breaks will occur? All read the texts silently, then move on to the next one.
I watch five people in the room: my wife, three girls, and one guy. The guy is connected to one of the girls but their body language does not reveal the connection.
I focus on a wedding gown that was never used. The text reads, “After big words and little action, he spent more and more time talking and less and less time acting. I paid for it all fair and square, both my wedding gown and his bank loan.”
One room focused on relationships within the family that failed: parent-child, brother-sister, one who left without explanation, one was never present at all, one committed suicide.
Some stories involved prostitution, sadism, masochism, drug abuse, and mental disorder. It is troubling to consider all the ways that relationships end.
My favorite was the caterpillar.
Lao tsu describes meditation, not seeing with the eyes but seeing with the mind. I suggest that meditation helps you cope. When somebody does somebody wrong, you can sit, focusing on your breath, experiencing the emotional pain, but being in the present moment. You can get through heavy storms by doing this and see the light without looking. Lao tsu tells about opening your heart…figurative speech.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 47):
“Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.
The more you know,
the less you understand.
The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.”
Karen and I walk back to our room as the darkness falls on Zagreb. There is a lot that we old people could tell you about broken relationships.
“I like the toaster,” she says. “How are you going to toast anything now?”
“I like the caterpillar,” I say. “But our caterpillar has no legs. It can’t crawl away.”
We look at the city lights.
“I don’t believe like you do,” Karen says. “I wish I believed in something but I don’t believe in anything.”
“That doesn’t matter so much,” I say. “Belief is generally just words. Being in the present moment is what is real. That and the leg-less caterpillar.”