Smile to the future and it will smile back at you.
What a beautiful and hope filled quote from a woman who still lives in the building her husband was shot outside… A naive, beautiful, and toxic sentiment.
Whether you sit on this one in the world of new age spiritualism, claiming it as a point within positive psychology, or you wrap it up neatly in the bow of a word of faith perspective, it is toxic and dangerous, even if it is something that brings one comfort at times.
If we think of life as a building being built continuously upward, with each phase or decade of life built upon the last, we can smile upward and have beautiful plans for our top floors and our future endeavors, and at times those may come to fruition, but if we do not address a crumbling foundation, a broken weight bearing wall, or other flaws and structural issues in the lower levels, it won’t matter how prettily we dress up and paint the top floors because the unaddressed damage is still posing a risk to the whole structure. When we don’t address our past traumas, past injuries, past mindsets, and past experiences, we will end up as beautiful as the leaning tower of Pisa.
A banana shaped disaster…
Pisa is a glorious and beautiful wonder of architecture and achievement in that it is completed and still standing at all rather than because it is a piece of stellar architecture. From the foundation upward, the piece is a disaster start to finish and as such has never been usable or livable. The soil under the foundation is soft and compressible to begin with so the greater the weight put upon the foundation, the greater pressure pushing down on the less dense soil creating a greater tilt. Rather than correcting the foundational errors, the building was left unfinished for 100 years before beginning again, and this time they used unevenly cut stones in order to keep the floors level. What they didn’t take into consideration the fact that on the leaning side where the larger stones would be placed to keep the floor above level, the larger stones would carry greater weight and would (please say you’ve guessed it) weigh the leaning side down further and pull the whole building into an even further tilt. Fortunately, they stopped building again for a time which allowed the unsteady soil to compress a little more so that by the time they added the final floors and the bell tower, which they moved closer to the center axis of the whole structure rather than the center of the top base of the cylinder shaped building, the building was a leaning banana shape that didn’t immediately topple. However, had they not stopped building, which was completely unplanned and not at all a mindful choice, the building wouldn’t have stood the test of time it has.
Nevertheless, it is a glorious disaster that at one point required 900 tonnes of lead weight and cables attached to the building and then attached to anchors elsewhere to keep the whole thing from falling over before removing soil from beneath the foundation of the building to correct some of the tilt and turn it, even though there is no way to change the banana shape that was built into the structure and therefore the uneven weight of it because…
They never actually fixed the underlying issues, they only continued to build, creatively but stupidly, floor upon floor trying to mask and correct the impacts of a poor foundation and poor lower levels.
If any of the builders had only gone back to fix the earlier problem with the foundation, Pisa would not be the 183 feet 3 inches on one side and 185 feet 11 inches on the other side banana shaped, spicy disaster we all know today. But they didn’t take the time to do that, they kept smiling at their future hoping it would smile back.
Humans are far more complex than a building but the reality is the same that if we have a faulty foundation or poorly constructed layers that we continue to build ourselves upon, no matter how creative we are and how excellent and beautiful our craftsmanship, we will still end up a wonky, weirdly shaped, (possibly) functional disaster of a building. I say this not because I think there is something wrong with being a little bit broken, because my whole approach to the world is from the perspective of the kintsukuroi, but because I don’t think we put enough emphasis on the importance of fixing and mending our foundations.
We spend so much time and energy looking forward to the future and smiling at it that we forget to take the time to smile upon and mend our past as well so that we have something strong enough to continue to build on as we go through our lives.
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Part 2 coming soon… written by Lizzy…