Thursday, February 11, 2010

Acceptance begins at home...

This morning I began reading an intriguing little book entitled "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers." Early on in the book, the author puts together a list of the differences between modernism and wabi-sabi.

Here are some of the differences that really struck me:

• Modernism needs to be well-maintained: Wabi-Sabi accommodates degradation and attrition.

• The expression of Modernism is made richer by purity; the expression of Wabi-Sabi is made richer by corrosion and contamination.

• Modernism is intolerant of ambiguity and contradiction; Wabi-Sabi is COMFORTABLE with ambiguity and contradiction.

Aha! I found myself thinking. Look at this obsession I have with photographing scruffy old boats: I am TOTALLY Wabi-Sabi!

Of course, it's never that simple, is it? I could just as easily make a case for myself as a modernist: only yesterday my printer was telling me that what he liked about my boat photos is their clean precision, their purity, their warmth, their emphasis on function and utility... all characteristics of modernism. Clearly I have bits of both in me, and they are (surprise, surprise) expressing themselves in my art.

Yep, we're back to where we were a few days ago: things are just messy. If, as Richard Rohr says, Everything Belongs, then we have to get wabi-sabi on a personal level; need to learn to be comfortable with EVEN OUR OWN ambiguity and contradictions; to accept that flaws and failures are okay, that inconsistency and imperfection and even confusion are all okay; that everything belongs.

And in a way, that's what my photos are saying: that it is possible to find perfection and purity and beauty even in the old and flawed and ugly. But have I internalized this yet? I like to think I'm there, of course, but NOoooo, I still have a lot to learn -- as today's experience with the Gospel of Thomas teaches me.

I had started off this morning as usual, with one of my Thomas meditations. I looked at what I had written, which was about the importance of tying up your loose ends, and was relieved to see it seemed to work and wouldn't require a (messy, time-consuming) rewrite, and posted it as is. I then began this blog, and left in midstream for my standing Thursday am coffee date.

But when I came home, I found my wise friend Maureen had left a comment on the Thomas meditation I had posted: "Who among us," she asks, "has not "loose ends" and "frayed connections? I understand the words and all they mean. I still feel them as saddening."

OMG. And isn't that what friends are for, to look at us and SEE all those unconscious assumptions we carry about our own imperfections?

And so I rewrote the piece, and though, in essence, I was writing about the same process, I came to see that Oneness doesn't have to mean cutting out, excluding, hating, or rejecting all the threads in us which are flawed, imperfect, embarrassing, or just plain don't make sense. Oneness comes rather from coming to accept and love ourselves and one another and life in all our/its messiness and frailty and inconsistency.

So silly; yet again, I needed to be reminded that the principles I believe about faith and community REALLY REALLY need to be applied on a personal level. I suspect true compassion can only come about when we learn to be truly compassionate with ourselves.

Yet another reminder: It's all good, and everything belongs. Thanks, Maureen!

1 comment:

Maureen said...

That's the thing: He loves us, takes us in arms at our ends, imperfection and all, "frayed connections" never mended, "loose ends" left streaming.

And what a contrail it all leaves!