Libraries are one of my favourite places. I am lucky to have access to one of the best library systems (not based on any empirical data but deep love), the Toronto Public Library and it is here on a recent research trip that I found this passage titled “Wrinkles”.
One of my favourite things to do is go to the 5th floor of the reference library and wander the stacks (that’s what they call the rows of free standing shelves that hold all of the books - for those silly people who have never been in a library) and just pull things off the shelves. That’s what I did when I found this exquisitely written passage that speaks to my heart. It’s all about our obsession with perfection and speaks to my creative preoccupation with imperfection.
However, I was a total ignoramus (that word comes courtesy of google search for idiot) and didn’t record the name of the book or the author - I thought I would be clever and efficient by just taking a photo not thinking I would need to credit it one day. I have googled, and googled again in vain. Speaking of which, when I search for “tension becomes wrinkle” I get results for wrinkle creams. Sigh. I’ve gone back to the library and employed the professional librarian on duty to help but to no avail. I’ve tried everything I can think of to super sleuth where I got this from but alas I’ve come up empty. So if anyone out there recognizes this please please let me know. I’d like to give credit where credit is due. But it’s too good not to share so here it is and again not my words but those of some eloquent kindred spirit out there in the ether….
Life is full of tension. Plants grow and spread their lush green leaves, bloom brightly, and in time splendidly bear fruit. The culture and civilization through which human beings celebrate life is also represented as an aspiration for tension. We like brand-new clothes, young girls, newly finished buildings, freshly made pure white paper, brand-new shoes… These images are sources of what is bright, beautiful, and desirable. We want to live forever, surrounded by things like this. And so it has always been for mankind. And yet the rhythm of the cosmos coldly moves forward, always forward. Clothes become soiled, people age, buildings decay, even brand-new shoes are sullied in the hustle and bustle of the street. Without exception, tension becomes wrinkle.
Humans face this impermanence, meditating on their raw and fateful sorrow.
However, from the transient process the world can be read afresh, once we find and accept the rhythm of transference and resurrection, generation and degeneration.
I don’t know about you but I find the idea of generation and degeneration very powerful. Not just because it fuels my creative exploration but more importantly because it is a philosophy to live by. After all the “cosmos coldly moves forward, always forward” and so far every living thing inevitably ages and ends. Nothing stays put and what an opportunity that is.
Yet, so much of our time, energy and resources are spent obsessing on ways to remain youthful. Not that an attitude tipped towards youthfulness is a bad thing if that means say trying new things or exploring the world. However, more often than not it’s about preservation of the body and a zealous reverence for a youthful appearance. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for living a healthy life whatever that means for you but I think there is something a bit nuts about spending so much time in the gym or restricting my diet for some potential pay-off way down the road. I will eat triple cream brie with a big hunk of sourdough today and love every minute of it.
I recall my aunt chiding my 80 plus year old grandfather to not have his much enjoyed nightly sip of scotch because of a previous heart condition. It came from a place of familial concern don’t get me wrong, but to what end? In my mind I was thinking fuck that - if I reach 80 I’m shooting heroin in my eyeballs and drinking as much scotch as possible. Why the obsession with remaining alive if there is no living left?
Without degeneration there can be no regeneration. And so when I experience feeling melancholic about the end of summer (even though I love fall - I know it means eventually winter, ugh) I try and remind myself that for spring and summer to come again it must end. Just like the anticipation of a holiday or a reservation at a favourite restaurant. You spend so much time anticipating and hopefully enjoying the experience when you are in it but then why be sad when it ends. Ok, I’m human so I can feel a little bummed out but my point is - shifting my thinking to acknowledge that a good time was had and is now coming to a close just means that the next experience can begin. If things don’t end they can’t begin.
So relish in the wrinkles and the tension. Who doesn’t love a new crisp white shirt or say that new handmade wooden dining table but I’m also learning to love the scratches and dents as markers for a life well lived, here, now.