Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Cup and a Crack

I attended a talk some years back in which we were told a tale of a teacup. I have taken a bit of artistic license with the tale in order to bring it to life here, so if you have heard it told somewhat differently, thank you for indulging me. This teacup was lovely to behold and brought its owner great pleasure. It was a fine bone china cup, so thin it was almost transparent. It was hand-painted a creamy,  butter yellow with delicate pale, pink roses and faded green leaves. It had, over the years of use, mellowed to a softer hue that seemed to glow with its warm tonality. One day the owner of this cup noticed a very slight and almost imperceptible crack at the outer edge. It was barely noticeable, so the owner decided it was not something to be alarmed about, and it was ignored. As the days passed, the crack started to grow a bit longer until finally it ran the entire length of cup from top to bottom. She could no longer pretend that the crack did not exist or that it did not bother her. The cup, in her mind, served no useful purpose as it made her think of nothing but the crack each time she held it in her hands. All this inner turmoil, despite the fact that it still retained the tea without a single drip or leak in evidence. The crack was finer in width then that of human hair but to its owner you would have thought the Grand Canyon had come to reside on the cups outermost edge. It no longer was an object that brought her any pleasure as she no longer saw a cup but a crack instead. So even though the cup was still servicable and just as lovely to behold, the crack had suddenly become the focus of attention and the owner abandoned it, sadly, to the trash. This crack rendered it unusable, unlovable and undesirable in this persons mind, so indeed it needed to be discarded.


Take this same story but picture a slightly different outcome. The same owner upon discovering the growing hairline crack decides to see the crack for what it is, and continues to do so even as the crack starts to grow. This owner sees the beauty of the cup and how the tea held within its well-like shape glows a bit brighter through the crack but holds the hot liquid intact. This same owner realizes that one day this cup may no longer hold the tea without leaking but as for right here and now it is fine. No need to worry or think about what may or may not come. No need to ruminate on finding a replacement or discarding it due to the cracks appearance. This same owner rather then ignoring the crack sees it for what it is and chooses to let it be.


It is simply a cup with a crack.


So are you more apt to be like the first owner who focuses all their attention on the crack, seeing only what is flawed or imperfect,  or are you more like the second owner who focuses their attention on the whole cup and sees it for what it is and not what it may or may not become in the future?


Cracks in cups, as cliche as that may sound,  are a lot like our lives. We all seem to move along in a state of apparent ease until suddenly a shift in our own lives can crack our veneer-like facade. It is up to us to decide wether or not to focus our attention on all the sudden pain, or worry this unwanted and unwelcome event in our life has caused us. Or we can see it for what it is, acknowledge its existence and allow it to be. A lot of our internal turmoil comes when we try to make something into more then what it is or worse, we try to make it better so that we can go back to the way things were.


But things are never the same, our lives our constantly shifting, and no matter what we do, it all changes and yes, even ends.


One thing of note is that I am not talking about denial here. To deny the existence of the cracks only makes them worse in the end. We are not resigning ourselves,  giving in or up, or in any way attempting to pretend the crack does not exist. All of these types of avoidance measures only wind up making the crack bigger, wider and far more precarious then it actually is in reality. When looking at the crack; see it, know it, feel it and accept it. If the resolution to this recent crack is not immediately apparent to you, it will come. And answers to life's dilemmas have a way of showing up when we stop trying to manipulate the circumstances or make it conform to unseen expectations of ours and others making.


I think for me, I have been both owners of this cup. I have focused too much on the crack at times, but have also learned to let go of the flaw and see the cup for what it truly is. Can I do this consistently, indeed not. Most of us cannot as well. But when we catch ourselves focusing too long on the cracks in our own lives, we need to see the possibility that those cracks represent and rather then discarding the cup, perhaps we just need to see the beauty that still exists, no matter how small or insignificant.

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