The Beauty of Imperfection

A good old friend, an architect, came to visit from out of town.  He brought along a few house models to discuss the design from a feng shui perspective.  My friend is a Black Feet American Indian, who is tall, handsome and a gentlemen.  In contrast to his commanding physical presence he creates intricate and beautiful beadwork.

There is a special bead-ring he designed showing five different color figures:  white, black, yellow, red and brown.  Each color represents the different colors of people in the world.  The design of these five people, hand in hand, symbolizes world peace.  He had shown a similar bead-ring to me a long time ago and I always remembered it because it impressed me so.  During lunch, he showed me another bead-ring that he recently made.  While I was admiring it, putting it on my finger, he said, “I do not want to give it to you because there is some flaw”.  I smiled, put the ring back on my finger and said “it is mine now”.

People are always looking for perfection, appreciate perfection and have difficulty accepting imperfection.  If a beautiful blue and white, Ming dynasty vase has a small chip or has a fine hairline crack, the commercial value will drop dramatically. This is true for many objects.   Why is it, that a vase with a small chip, no longer looks beautiful to us anymore? Why can’t we enjoy something with flaws, even though we are aware the world is full of imperfections?

Navaho and Hopi Indian tribes, purposely leave some flaws and mistakes in their work when weaving carpets or straw baskets.   It is their belief that only God can make perfect things.  This is an attitude of humbleness, the wisdom of learning to accept and enjoy imperfection.

We tend to focus too much on small flaws, and lose sight of the whole picture.  This habit can be seen in our daily lives through our actions toward others, material things and events in our life.  For example, we may think, “this is a beautiful piece of pottery, too bad it has a chip at the bottom” or “he is a nice boy, unfortunately he does not have much patience” or “the party was just perfect, except the soup wasn’t hot enough”.  We always pay more attention to small mistakes, and lose sight of the whole picture.  Such thoughts add to the stress and unhappiness of our lives.

It is inevitable that in life, we will always encounter some flaws, mistakes and imperfections.  If we can learn to accept small flaws, learn to appreciate the beauty of imperfection, we will be a person with more tolerance and compassion and at the same time be more loving.  In turn, it will make us more relaxed and happy. So give yourself and others a break from time to time, as only God can make things perfect!

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