Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grace is in the Recovery


This week's theme over at Illustration Friday is "clumsy."  I struggled a bit with this week's theme, and hence my offering of two submissions in one blog post. 

The title of this entry -- "Grace is in the Recovery" -- is something of a life philosophy (yeah, I have a lot of those).  I've never been the most graceful person.  I trip a lot; I bonk my head a lot.  Sometimes I think I never really grew into my body.  However, even as an audience member, I bore quickly of the precisely controlled performance.  But I find it very exciting when an actor or artist has to deal with an unanticipated problem.  Yes, that is painful if they don't deal with it well.  But I am ecstatic if they respond well.  I feel like I am in the presence of a unique moment where a scripted and precise action gave over to one that must respond to context.  And how do we access those moments if not for the willingness to be clumsy?  That's not to say I value the under-prepared performance -- more that I value preparation that readies the performer to deal with the unexpected.

I recently wrote a brief piece for an environmental education center's newsletter where I discussed my lessons learned from walking down the side of a glacier's lateral moraine.  In that piece, I talk about how you have to give up the idea of sure and stable footing and be ready to respond quickly to the steep and slippery gravel-mound's tendency to slide.  There is really no way to do it and look pretty.  At its heart, the experience is about letting go and trusting your ability to respond.  That is where grace resides.  Not in the perfectly executed gesture, but in the capacity to recover from the fumble.  And that is a lesson about grace that goes well beyond walking and performance. 

We all fall.  None of us are perfect.  All of us are sometimes (often times?) clumsy.  But beauty is in how we respond to clumsy -- in ourselves and in others.  And I think beating ourselves up about not being perfect, about not being graceful, is about the least graceful we can be. 


  1. Interesting text! And somehow both pieces have their own sort of elegance to them - the bull in particular looks very fetching with that whole determined, angry look about him! :D

  2. Beuatiful essay, reminds me of Fresca's on failure at l'astronave:

  3. Thanks for commenting on my blog--I'm glad you liked my hurrah for failure!

    One of the most wonderful things I've ever seen was a truly graceful flub-up that happened on stage in London in 2006.

    The play was the unremarkable "The Creeper," starring the remarkable late Ian Richardson. (I knew him from his role playing the wickedly mesmerizing prime minister in "House of Cards").

    At a tense moment in the action, the actor is supposed to add some water to his Scotch, out of a soda siphon bottle. But when Richardson pushed the siphon, the soda water shot past his glass, spraying all over the floor.

    He looked startled, turned slightly, and said to the audience something like, "I hate it when they change these things."

    Everyone burst into laughter, but before the laughter had even started to begin to die down, Richardson had gone *entirely* back into character and carried on as if nothing had happened.

    I learned more about acting and what an art it is--and came to admire actors more-- in that single moment of witnessing grace under pressure than in anything I've ever seen.
    It showed me how I might act too--the possibility that in real life I might have or could cultivate, as you say "the capacity to recover from the fumble."

    When Richardson died in his sleep in 2007, I felt a little personal grief, feeling I'd met the actual man, for a moment.


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