Thursday, October 21, 2010

Loss and Perfection

I began yesterday by breaking a new piece of jewelry: an ammonite fossil, which has managed to acquire a silvery coating of iron pyrite. It fell onto the bathroom floor and broke in two along an old crack, which I had already noticed. There is still ammonite shell inside the fossil, shining like mother of pearl.

Patrick and I are pretty sure we can glue the fossil back together, but it got a little chipped as well. It will not be as perfect as before; and I now know that it is far more fragile than I realized when I bought it. So it may break again.

I have trouble with imperfection, which is one reason I write so slowly. My slowness does not produce perfection. When I finally shove stories out into the world, they are still flawed. But I finally get tired of trying to fix stories that are essentially imperfect, give up and shove. Sometimes, when I read the stories later, I think, "This is really okay." Sometimes I think, "This story does have problems, but it's still worth reading. There are good lines and entertaining ideas."

As I age, I have to deal more and more with loss and with imperfection. So maybe I should learn that our lives are imperfect, and what we make is imperfect.

Some people seem to create art of miraculous quality on a consistent basis. They seem magical: Mozart comes to mind, though I think I like Haydn better, because he worked so hard for so many years, writing music as a job, the way a mason makes stone walls or a butcher cuts meat, and not seeming magical.

There are Chinese pots from the Tang and Sung dynasties that seem magical. You look at them and think, "This is an absolutely flawless pot, the essence of what a pot is and should be."

I think we thank the world and humanity for magical art and artists, and for Haydn, and we keep doing the best we can.


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