For the last couple of years I’ve skipped making a list of resolutions and instead, tried to live by the concept described in the book “My One Word,” of focusing on one single word or concept for the whole year.
I kind of broke the rules because 1) I picked two words, “Yes, And” and 2) I kept those two words for two years. But it worked. I have to say that after two years of committing to the optimistic improvisational theory explained by Tina Fey in BossyPants, I was able to train myself to accept and work with situations I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. So, there I was last week, struggling to come up with a new word or idea to concentrate on for the new year.
Now, I don’t know about you, but 2017 felt like I spent the entire year in a poorly wrapped package, handled by a team of butterfingered gorillas, only to be delivered with a drop kick on the doorstep of 2018. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I feel broken, and there is brokenness all around me. Broken hearts, broken promises, broken health, broken dreams. And all of it, despite my improvisational optimism, pretty much out of my control.
So, yesterday, on the last day of the year, as I sat there surveying the fragments of my world, wondering how, or –even if– I could ever put it all back together, an image came to mind. The image was that of a once broken bowl, mended with fine lines of gold. The very thought of this piece of pottery, a thing some may have thrown away, saved by someone who cared enough about it to not only mend it, but to make it more beautiful as a result of the mending, was the very thing I’d been looking for.
This practice of mending broken pottery with gold is called Wabi Sabi. It is a Japanese art form that treats the repair of broken things as part of the thing’s history, and something to be seen and appreciated, rather than something to hide. The idea is that we are all beautiful, and what makes us beautiful is our scars, the very thing we think we need to hide.
It’s an art form in Japan, but the wisdom of honoring scars shows up in literature too. Rumi, a 13th-century mystic poet wrote a poem titled “Childhood Friends” where he mentions light healing a wound. He says:
“Let a teacher wave away the flies and put a plaster on the wound. Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”
More recently, in his WWI novel, “A Farewell to Arms,” Ernest Hemingway discussed healing and resilience when he wrote:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
More modern still, Leonard Cohen on his 1992 album “The Future” includes the song “Anthem” which seems to combine Rumi and Hemingway when he sings:
“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
So, in 2018 I’ve decided I’m going to gather my broken parts, and look at them, embrace them, let the light in, and when they heal, I wont hide the scars, because that’s the most beautiful part.