Missing pieces

My daughter has a puzzle in her room she bought at a yard sale. On long Saturday afternoons this only child will take out the puzzle and assemble it. What I find interesting is that she keeps this puzzle, uses the puzzle over and over again, despite the fact there is one missing piece. When Lucy has completed the puzzle she stands back and looks at the image. The missing piece does not seem to bother her, my daughter seems content to see the image 95% perfect.

Most of us, myself included, would toss this puzzle as broken and find a complete puzzle, with all the pieces inside, so that when our work is done we can take pleasure in finishing the task at hand and making the puzzle into a perfect picture. Leaving one piece missing reminds me of that the Navajo intentionally weave mistakes into their rugs to remind them that human beings are not perfect. That sensibility can also be found in the Wabi-sabi art of Japan. The intention is also not to go back and fix the imperfections. The Navajo see mistakes as moments in time. And since you can’t change time, why try to change a mistake that already happened? The mistake is already woven into the fabric of time. It’s good to be reminded of it when you look back.

It’s like climbing a mountain. If you climb a mountain you are sure to have a few missteps along the way. But you keep going. You don’t stop and start over if you trip here or take the wrong path there. You keep going. You can’t remove that step. It happened, it’s part of the climb. And when the climb is done, you’ve finished. As long as you made it to the top, you don’t call the climb a mistake. Likewise, the Navajo don’t call a rug with some off stiches a mistake. If the rug is finished, it’s a successful rug. More importantly, a rug with a few off stitches is an honest rug.

Lucy’s puzzle is a successful effort, missing piece or not. Sure we ought to do our best, but best should never be confused with perfect. Was Gord Downie’s voice perfect at the Tragically Hip’s last concert? Heaven’s no, the damage done by the aggressive cancer treatment forever altered Downie’s singing. But no one in the audience or watching on TV cared, we saw him trying, pushing, and connecting.

The dividing line in effort is not between failure and perfection, or pass and fail, it is between the effort in spite of flaws and imperfections and giving up or papering over. Quitting or pretending does not inspire, rather persons who create and strive remind us that we were not made to be perfect, our bodies are not perfect, our spirit is not perfect, our character is not perfect. Bur beauty rests in the result of human creativity and effort in spite of these odds. What we remember, who we remember, why we remember, has nothing to do with the perfect or the complete but rather we are born to connect and when we see the connection in whatever form it reaches us we are blessed.

Blessed be moments of true connection, beautiful imperfection and robust wholeness. Missing pieces, gaping flaws and broken bodies will not prevent us from touching our deepest healing.