Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Imperfection


Tonight I want to take you back to Innermost House.

I am often asked about the supernatural neatness of Innermost House.  I must say it is tidy.  But if there is anything supernatural about it, it is only that I am the one who keeps it that way!

I enjoy taking care of our things, but I never did before Innermost House.  I am not a natural housekeeper.  Judging from the last thirty years of experience, I would say that I am more a natural homeleaver.  

This will sound strange, but somehow I feel it is the woods that made the difference to me.  The perfection of the woods lies in its complex interweaving of damage and repair.  The pattern is everywhere, in the tree over our head, in the leaves beneath our feet, in the woven web in the porch rafters, in the antler of the deer.  The perfection of the woods lies in its imperfection.   

Innermost House is full of imperfections.  It was made by hand.  And somehow it is the imperfections in which I have had a hand that mean the most to me.  One day I dropped something from the cupboard in the kitchen onto the counter below, where it struck one of our favorite black tea bowls and chipped the edge. 

I set it aside until we next saw Mr. Asakichi in San Francisco's Japantown, the friend from whom we get our tea things.  He told Michael how to make up a mixture of epoxy with black pastel shavings and apply it to the bowl with a toothpick.  Now it's as good as new to drink from, and the soft bump makes it our favorite of the two matching bowls.

Mr. Asakichi said that in traditional Japan, and in tea ceremony circles still today, a repair of that kind would actually have been mixed with gold dust, so that far from disguising the repair, it would have shone out in gilt relief.  He showed us pictures of the most beautiful repaired bowls run through with veins of gold that almost made me want to go home and break some more!
 
Our white seat cushions are often remarked upon as unlikely in the woods.  They have been in daily use for seven years.  I expected to need to change the upholstery by now, and I suppose someday I will, but they're still perfectly alright as they are.  Sometimes I use a big, heavy cotton napkin with large black and white checks on each seat just as a change, and they serve as some protection. 

However, one of the cushions (mine as it happens) has twice had a bit of flying ember land on it without our noticing, and burned a tiny hole in the fabric.  Since the color of the cushions was chosen to complement the color of the walls, it occurred to Michael to use a touch of our left over paint, applied with a Q-Tip, over the holes, and it worked perfectly.  In an imperfect way. 

Now I am the more reluctant to replace our cushions.  They are more a part of me.  We share a history of imperfection.




17 comments:

  1. Diana, I'm a firm believer in the old adage that God is in the details, for it is in paying attention to the details that we move into the present moment, the only place in which we can experience God. I take great delight in keeping my home company-neat for just that reason, and I use as my motivation an image of my Guru walking through the door and feeling comfortable staying in the environment I have prepared for her. As for the imperfection in your chair cushions, I confess, I noticed them right away in the photos on the IH webpage when I first made its acquaintance, but somehow they seemed to fit it because they made the rest of the perfect surroundings look well-loved and well-used. That tiny item of imperfection was perfect in contributing to the aura of welcoming people into a space of comfort and ease. You know what else I noticed? (Or perhaps I just missed it--I'm not sure.) I didn't see a clock anywhere in IH. (Was there a wind-up one next to your mattress maybe, hidden from view?) I liked the idea of letting the day unfold naturally and allowing the nuances of light/dark guide you through the passage of time.

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    1. I was thinking that if I ever accomplish my unelectrified life, I could keep a little watch in a drawer in case I ever had an inordinate desire to know the time or check a pulse or something.

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    2. You have the best sense of humor, Julie! You always crack me up!

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  2. The pursuit of perfection is silly, frustrating and ultimately is doomed to failure.
    Those that over-obsess are prone to stress and a sense of failure.
    Be reasonable with your selves.

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    1. You know, Chris, when I think about the pursuit of perfection in relation to performing tasks, what occurs to me is that many, many people have a hard time following through with a task to its final natural completion (this natural completion is much like what occurs in the Conversation when we recognize that the Conversation has ended naturally by the final silent lapse into the 'not knowing'). We have probably all met people who have half-finished projects lying all around their offices and homes, with nothing ever FINISHED. What a subconscious burden that can feel like! This habit, if left unchecked, can lead a person to accept the imperfection of his/her work as normal and good enough. But oh, what is missed when this attitude becomes the standard operating procedure for ANY activity! What I've experienced about the pursuit of perfection is that it does not require 'over-obsessing' but rather a simple willingness to surrender to the length of a task from its inception to its very last need requirement. If a task is performed without moving the mind from the present moment, (that is, without bringing past-conditioning judgment of the task into the present experience or escaping the task by daydreaming about the future or ruminating about the past), then perfection happens naturally regardless of the end product. Perfection lies in staying with something until the final Silence is reached, when there is nothing left to complete, because the very essence of true Absolute Silence IS perfection. To me, the pursuit of perfection means bringing my whole heart into whatever I do so that I lose myself in the perfection of the MOMENT, regardless of the product outcome. I 'become' the task, not the 'doer' of the task and therefore I am not striving for perfection, but rather, am making room for the natural innate perfection of 'life as it is' to be perceived and appreciated. Now, on the other hand, if you were referring to the pursuit of perfection in terms of 'fixing' ourselves, then yes, I totally agree that this is a project that is doomed to failure. The nature of the ego is to keep us from recognizing our innate perfection which already exists as our true essence. We can pursue 'fixing' ourselves 'til the cows come home and never feel that we'll ever achieve perfection because our efforts are mistakenly directed at trying to fix the ego instead of relaxing into the Silence that is the impersonal, unchangeable Witness of the changing phenomenal scene.

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  3. Wabi-sabi imperfect, impermanent ?????

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  4. Diana, once again you have brought into the light something that unconsciously is a major premise in my own path of becoming human! And yes, Jacqueline, Wabi-Sabi - the Purposely Imperfect is one aspect of it for me, but that's more intellectual and intentional than the emotional attachments I feel.

    I know that many other cultures believe that they should not try to make something perfect - it would be an affront to the perfection of God(s),and so are made purposely imperfect. I'm more familiar with Native Americans work. For example, in weaving it's called leaving a “spirit path” for escape; in decorating pottery, never completing a line that makes a circle, because their spirit could be trapped inside the container; or stringing a wrong-colored "spirit" bead into a pattern as an act of humility.

    I've always been fascinated by this, but Diana, with your impetus towards more reflection on the subject tonight, I realize what I most cherish are those things I have collected with an eye and heart that was seeking the unintentional, imperfect soul/spirit of each. And that extends to my friendships as well. The imperfection(s) make them so much More.

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  6. I loved this post :0)
    It seems to me that in owning very few things, one is returned the gift of delight in them. To the person with a great hoard, things become a nuisance, a chore to manage, the trap of dirt and source of confusion. To the person with just the barest essentials, there is time and space to really look at them and enjoy them. With much handling they become friends.
    The story you recount of fixing the bowl would not happen in a house where the cupboards were stuffed with crockery; it would just be tossed out.
    Things are infused with life by love and touch.

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  7. This is lovely. (I am back from my break - thanks so much for all your posts, I have had a lovely time in catching up.)

    I am learning to mend clothes at present. I am spending some time remembering techniques my mum showed me when I was young, and looking at books, and practicing. I love to mend something neatly. It doesn't have to be invisible. It is enough that it is done neatly. I am reaching towards having only what I need, and looking after those things well. A long way to go yet, but I am learning.

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  8. I really love the idea of adding gold dust to the epoxy resin so that the history of breakage and use becomes part of the beauty of the object. Rather different from my recent attitude of, "if it was precious and now it's broken, smash it completely and use it as paving material!" It doesn't say much for my peaceableness!

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  9. The principle/aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi is such a joy and relaxing pleasure to me in my gardens. Being able to embrace slight imperfection as a higher order is so freeing. Realizing perfection is unobtainable is so much more efficient and peaceful in my life. It is so much easier to get the hedgerow almost right and move on without worry. And when the whole garden takes on that feel, it becomes so much more human, organic, and less sterile.

    I use Wabi-Sabi in many areas of my life--almost just right is usually good enough. I find it somehoe intertwined with the Pareto principle. And I use both to approach diificult tasks as ways and means to reduce the stress of handling challenges.

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    1. I agree, sir! In fact I am of the opinion that ALMOST, almost good enough is even closer to perfection--especially since I live in the woods in a hollow. My own garden is a beautiful mess, and the old fellows come around here and say, "That's a nice garden you have there, Ma'am." (Haha, I am just vain enough to LOVE being called Ma'am...) I seed everything back over in grass as soon as each vegetable plays out and the whole garden disappears. Nature never plants things in straight rows and everything thrives, doesn't it?

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  11. I have enjoyed catching up with the new blog, which in truth I vastly prefer to Facebook. Thank you.

    The pressure of perfection makes life very hard for many people striving for it. And yet, good enough is good enough. Objects are there to be used, not to stay new and supposedly perfect. Is this not part of identity?

    Perhaps this is not the "in" way - I think perhaps that is why I am happy in a crooked little house from 1770 and not living in a geometric box with no pets LOL.

    Melanie

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  12. When I discovered wabi sabi I felt like I had found a name for something that I feel innately, and which is reflected in what I treasure, and apart from everything I just love the sound of those two words together - wabi sabi. Just gorgeous. They sound happy. A x

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