Of course, it’s already broken

Amidst the pages of adverts for kiddo gadgets and gizmos in my parenting magazines, I came across an article yesterday which was well-written and surprisingly thought-provoking. The author was discussing the chaos that comes with children (and their toys which come in many lose-able pieces), and confessing her OCD-must-clean-now tendencies. Her suggestion: maybe the answer is to be a little ‘zen’…

She writes, “There’s a lovely Zen parable about a meditation master, Achaan Chaa. When his students came to him and asked how he could be happy in a world of such impermanence, the master held up a glass and said, “For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and my elbow brushes it and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”

The author concludes that it helps her a lot to think that “the puzzle piece is lost before you tear off the shrink-wrap, and the action figurine is down the toilet or lost under the ficus even before you’ve paid for it.” Every moment before that is, in its own way, precious.

I like it. Even as a Christian, I think there is great wisdom in not seeking to try and maintain perfection and control in a world where, unavoidably, things fall apart. There is wisdom in recognizing the fallenness of the world when it comes to all things pertaining to having kids: discipline, naps, toys, sickness and much more. One day my children will leave the house (and leave this life!) – in fact, they are closer to leaving and closer to dying every day… every day before then is indeed a gift.

And yet I think the Christian faith offers more than the Zen-realism. Where as Zen very wisely counters against a false desire for control and perfection in this life in favour of realism… the Christian faith tells us that the desire for perfection is still not wrong. It’s not that we deny our desire that toys never break, houses never get dirty, children never get sick, and people never leave… Those desires should not just be denied: they reflect part of our human nature! It is a good thing that we long for the perfect! Surely then the answer is not to eliminate desire, but to keep somehow working at locating our hopes in the life to come. Easier said than done – but that’s the path I’m working on. I long for the perfect – but this life, of course, is already broken.

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