I showed someone this picture of an ancient door in Kyoto, Japan. They commented that it was sad that the door was in such poor condition. That it’s beauty was marred by the missing pieces. They could imagine what it once looked like, and thought it would be great for someone to restore it to it’s original glory.
I pondered their comments. It was not just that I did not agree with them, I actually felt sorry for them. I grew up in a world where the flaws in things were called character or interesting, and perfection was not the only definition of beautiful. I was taught to find the unique and special in old, weathered and flawed objects. The spaces we lived in were not filled with furniture from a single store. They were filled with items that had a story, or creativity, or brought life and interest to the space. A door with missing parts or flaws or that appeared imperfect was valued. Value was placed on being different and the more different the better the story.
I felt sorry for the person who commented because I could only imagine the world they live in where only perfection or something with it’s original beauty in tact was impressive. Where things with flaws are seen as less, and effort should be made to bring things back towards perfection. I hoped for them that this standard only applied to things and not to people. Because people are all flawed, everyone has something about them that is not perfect. Everyone ages and their physical appearance diminishes over time. No matter how hard we try or what drugs we take, operations we survive, or plans we follow our bodies will fail and fall apart.
We are liberated when we are able to find beauty in flaws, imperfection, in the old and ancient. Our minds are opened when we look to see the value in the old and experienced instead of only wanting young and fresh. This door has stood for centuries. If it could speak imagine the stories about emperors and princesses, geisha and warriors it could tell. It has seen samurai and iPhones pass between it’s frame. It has seen cultures, worlds and empires come and go…and yet it is still standing. It has seen sun and rain, snow and heat over the decades…and it has survived it all. It has changed color, lost elements and hung there both open and closed…and it still invited the world to experience the wonders on the other side. It is far from perfect, far from pristine, far from where it once was…yet it still stands and reminds us all that no matter what comes your way, no matter how you endure the ravages of time, when you are the one still hanging in there no one can deny your value. Beauty is not in perfection, beauty is found in being the survivor who lives to tell the tale.