Monday, January 26, 2009
Broken Tea Bowls
"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
A Farewell to Arms
I learned something valuable yesterday. I learned about broken Japanese tea bowls, and about the Japanese Wabi aesthetic. According to Zen-cha Roku, Wabi means lacking something, having things run contrary to our desires, being frustrated in our wishes. Things imperfect, things irregular or damaged. Like me, and probably like you, too.
These irreplaceable antique porcelain Japanese tea bowls used in tea ceremonies sometimes become cracked or broken. They are not throwaways. The broken bowls are painstakingly repaired with a mixture of lacquer and gold, whereby they become more valuable, the repaired bowl worth more than the original. They say that the repairs lend character and beauty to the bowl, the repaired imperfections enhancing the design, and they are prized all the more.
Crystal, my teacher, said that once she and her mother were driving in the canyon, and they had just passed one of those signs that warn: WATCH FOR FALLING ROCKS, when a landslide of boulders came crashing down on their car. One of her tires was ripped off its bent rim, the windows were broken out. Her injured mother stayed in the car, sitting in a sea of broken glass. Crystal got out, and began to pound on the dented hood. "Why ME?" she asked the mountain. "WHY ME?" I mean, how many times have you read that sign--and NEVER had any rocks fall on you? DO you know of ANYONE who ever had rocks fall on them? Why me, indeed. Crystal said when she was a child, and was faced with disappointments and hurts, her dad always told her to "Cowboy up!"
But, you know what? When I first learned about my melanoma, my first reaction was Why me? Then I thought, Because. Just because. A hundred 'why's'. A hundred 'becauses.' Why not me? Joseph Wirthlin, an LDS Apostle said last October, "The dial on the wheel of sorrow eventually points to each of us. No one is exempt." But you know what else? Nobody ever promised it was going to be roses all the way. The poet Theodore Roethke said it: "I learn by going where I have to go." Sometimes we just have to "Cowboy up."
A note I discovered once among some old papers: Adversity helps men to rise above themselves.
My husband said once, a long time ago, "When you think of the vastness and enormity of the universe, and of the billions and billions of planets and stars, doesn't it make you feel small and insignificant?" Then he added, "Me, neither!"
We are all like the precious flower vase made by Rikyo called Onjoji, and a beautiful tea bowl named Seppo, made by Koatsu--prized all the more because they were cracked, and have been fixed. We may be imperfect, but that's okay.
My favorite songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen wrote: Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That's how the light gets in.
Is that true? I think so. :)