In college, I was a straight A student who once took a class “pass/fail” to give myself a break. Turns out I didn’t know how to relax my effort and ended up getting an A anyway—though that only showed up as “pass” and I suffered in the process. At the time, though, I thought perfection was an admirable goal. I patted myself on the back for it.
Then I lived more of my life and learned something valuable.
Although still conditioned to strive for perfection, I’ve come to appreciate the haphazard, the imperfect, and the uncontrollable. I see that at the untidy edges of life, passion escapes its shackles and truth is revealed. Messy, incomplete, and broken are beautiful, too.
The other day, I was cleaning my office, trying to create order once again. The recycling bin had overflowed, and the piles, stacked everywhere—comprised of random bills, things to remember, upcoming events, and business notes—no longer made sense. I sighed, thinking it was a disaster.
However, as I sorted the papers into keep and throw away piles, I came across all kinds of random thoughts jotted down and forgotten. My writings were on scraps of paper, half-written spiral notebooks, and yellow note pads, interspersed among “to do” lists, travel itineraries, and business documents. These random introspective thoughts perfectly reflected my experience of late—haphazard, messy, and unfocused, but unexpectedly poignant. It was as if, in the periphery of my hectic life, there was a part of me reading between the lines, noticing the beauty, enlivened by life and appreciating it.
On one scrap of paper I had written:
“Out of the corner of my eye, I see the truth . . . that life is good, that existence itself is a miracle. I sense the glory often—but too often I see life face on. I see the content of life. I see suffering. And suffering comes from the weaving of sad stories—stories that weave webs of fear and loneliness.
Just today a friend of mine was struggling, unable to see anything but a broken arm and a broken car. She said she’d been up all night, stuck in the loneliness of the wee hours in a blackness that felt bleak, not deep. I know that place too.
I want to enfold her in my arms—to tell her everything is okay; nothing is wrong. That life is a rich tapestry and that she is an integral part of that.
Soften your gaze I want to say. This too shall pass. And, while I may not have arms big enough to enfold all of suffering, Life does.
Just out of the corner of my eye, I can see the truth, can you?
Another note said:
My life—all of it: spiritual worldview, material worldview, being happy, being stuck—is my practice. There is no part of my life that is not an opportunity. Of course, I have known this intellectually, but it hit me viscerally this morning on my walk.
Another, referencing a Japanese worldview centered on the art of imperfection, said more simply,
“I am Wabi Sabi, and that’s okay.”
Life itself, I reflect, now—like my office, like my random thoughts, like the tree growing crookedly between other trees—is Wabi Sabi perfect, just as it is.
As a writer, this understanding has freed me. I’ve gently let go of the student constantly striving for an ‘A’ in a pass/fail setting—the perfectionist holding my writing hostage. I now throw all kinds of ideas down on bits and scraps of paper. I capture random moments and insights. Some I use, others I don’t. Sometimes, wildly disparate ideas from different times and places and different scraps of paper find themselves together in an article.
Truthfully, I am never sure where the inspiration comes from, but I appreciate that it is the messy edges of life that pulse with vitality—and that is what I want to write about.
I am a Wabi Sabi writer writing about Wabi Sabi life.
Photo Credit: pics.onsizzle.com, 6593552.png