Being a person entirely too prone to seeing metaphor all around her, and to enthusiastically point it out to friends, family and uninterested by-standers, I have once again stumbled upon something that, well, means something to me. (Doesn’t that sum up modern blogging? “I think it’s significant; therefore it is.” Nothing could be further from the truth, but here we are nonetheless. And if you don’t like what you’re reading, please stop and click elsewhere. Believe me; I’ll understand.)
What tickled my metaphorical fancy after the wilting magnolia, was a collection of photos I took last week of Roman ruins here in Milan. Specifically the remains of mosaic tiles found in thermal baths. I am drawn to them for two reasons aside from their raw beauty. First, the fact that they are all partial for some reason. Whether they were left incomplete by their creators, or damaged and sketched in by restorers to show us their original intent, they all speak of “work in progress.” Second, the fact that each beautiful object is as lovely in its incomplete entirety as it is fascinating in the examination of its smallest, most flawed details appeals to the shameless poet in me.
Both “work in progress” and “whole vs. sum of the parts” are useful in terms of personal examination. That we are always works in progress is indisputable. What’s more encouraging perhaps is the idea that there is beauty even in our raw unfinished states. That it is the act of slowly evolving toward some intent or ideal that is itself the work of art. Maybe, really, our continual becoming is more interesting and important than what we ever are.
Each of us, too, is a dizzying combination of characteristics, choices, possibilities—often at odds with each other. Throw in the variable of growth over time, and we are all the sum of a zillion pieces of experience gained, knowledge absorbed, mistakes made, luck had, and genes inherited. And yet dissecting us into that infinite number of details doesn’t begin to get at the soul of us, who we really are.
Becoming whole, mature, at peace, balanced, true to ourselves, whatever you want to call it is the great, mysterious unfinished work of our lifetimes. And how we do it, bit by itty bitty bit may be the greatest work of art any of us ever produces. I once worked with a Japanese photographer who over the umpteenth tiny little serving of sake, looked into my eyes and said in Japanese, “The struggle is everything.” His translator told me what he’d said, and I nodded my agreement.
The struggle. The laying of the smallest pieces. The never-quitting. It is everything. And, every thing. And, also, the most beautiful thing.