“Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Hemingway says something like “The world breaks us all, and in the end many are strong in the broken places…” I’m not quoting exactly, but it’s the one line that endures for me from his novel, A Farewell to Arms.
I think about that quote almost daily. It doesn’t take but a glance at the daily news to see our collective brokenness. Not only on the world’s stage with wars and natural disasters and all manner of death, but also on the small screens of our lives. Our tragedies and loss and pain cannot be ignored as much as we’d like to numb them or wave them away. Perhaps there is even a tragedy of not recognizing our tragedies, not owning our pain, disregarding our loss. But whether we admit it or not, we are all of us broken again and again. For some of us, it is horrific and obvious. For others, it is death by a thousand paper cuts. But it is no less real. And no less painful.
This art I’ve come home to in the past couple years tells this story. It’s called boro stitching and is part of a larger world view called wabi sabi. Wabi sabi embraces every stray thread, every tattered edge, every tear, even down to the scraps that would be destined for the trash. All are used, all are valued, all are beautiful.
As I stitch by a dim light long after good night kisses have been given and sheets have been tucked round, I find that I am touching redemption. To pull together a collage of scraps, the unwanted and unlovely and dissonant pieces, and bind them up with a simple running stitch, this is something like our lives.
And this is what it looks like to hold the unloved parts of ourselves, the experiences that bring us to the floor, the fear and rage and sadness that breaks us. This is what it looks like to make our tapestry.
This is what it looks like to bless our lives.