Sustenance: A Cup of Tea

Some years ago, I was invited by a friend to participate in a Japanese Tea Ceremony.  I knew practically nothing of it but had some sense that this was going to be more akin to meditation than to refreshments.  In that I was not wrong.  Some part of me was touched enough by this Tea Ceremony to go out and buy the very thin volume The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura and attempt reading it.

Okakura spoke to me: “(The Tea Ceremony) is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of every day existence.  It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order.  It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”

I like to think that this is what touched me all those years ago.  I have never participated in the Tea Ceremony again.  I love the call to “worship the Imperfect” not in an idolatrous way, but in the sense that very often what I have and experience now, in whatever form, most often sustains me.  More, the imperfect that I may tend to complain about is so much more perfect than it could be and is for so many people that I could stand to do penance for my complaints.

I also am deeply drawn to the “tender attempt to accomplish something possible” today. We celebrate the glorious, the huge, the outrageous, the extremes of everything: wealthy, beauty, size, fame, power over others. Stories of the extreme may entertain, but they do not sustain.  Today, however, I know that I am going to make some tender attempts at the possible, and I will accomplish some of those.  Doing that and knowing that sustains some part of me that is necessary for my life and contentment. That those tender attempts at the possible may also “inculcate the mystery of mutual charity” does begin to make me think of this as the work of God.

What tender attempts at the possible will you try today?

Bob Patrick

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