Someone told me, yesterday, and to paraphrase, that life had been very good; there was much to be thankful for; and that she was blessed. But there was still one little thing that lurked behind it all: one mistake. Apparently a big mistake. A huge mistake. A failing too great to ever be forgotten or even forgiven–if not by God, then by herself. I found myself thinking that even our mistakes, maybe exactly our mistakes, lead us on to other things. No life is without mistakes. Who’s to say whether any life would be better or worse if one were to live it from one end to the other without ever making one. I said, “we are all human, after all.” That’s the thing: we are all human. I seem to recall that saints made mistakes too because they too, after all, were human.
But the exchange soon had me remembering something I once read (I found it and I quote Teresita Fernández below): it isn’t the mistakes we make as much as how we go about living our lives after we come to think of something as a mistake. A failure. An imperfection. No words of mine can say it better. I believe the concept can easily be applied to a person as readily as to a bowl. We’ve all heard this message in many forms; I’ll call it another way to impart the message of the Velveteen Rabbit–it’s only after much living, much scar tissue has formed on the psyche, and many metaphorical buttons have come loose or fallen off that any of us become a person of substance: a person valued “precisely because of the exquisite nature of how (we) have been repaired.”
To quote Teresita Fernández:
“In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that post repair were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself. Here lies that radical physical transformation from useless to priceless, from failure to success. All of the fumbling and awkward moments you will go through, all of the failed attempts, all of the near misses, all of the spontaneous curiosity will eventually start to steer you in exactly the right direction.”
M L S Baisch
Photo: Teresita Fernández, Artist whose work is characterized by an interest in perception and the psychology of looking.