One of the calligraphy pieces my friend Fusae helped me write the other week was a favorite proverb of hers, “継続は力なり“which she explained as “through ongoing effort there is power.” Though the first thought to spring to mind is a picture of physical exercise, the adage holds true when applied to many other areas of life well! Certainly it’s true artistically. Every mark on paper or canvas helps bring the work slightly closer to its finished state as the artist steps through the maze-like process of working and reworking the image as needed. Don’t give up. Even a drawing or painting that doesn’t fit the artist’s vision is valuable practice and can teach something. It is a building block in the foundation of the palatial skill the artist hopes to build.
This is a concept I wish I had understood as a child! Back then, only excellent results rightly achieved mattered to me. I took Yoda’s pseudo-encouragement from the Star Wars series far too literally: “Do or do not; there is no try.” If my skill was not equal to the excellent competition of some task, I was defeated before I ever began. I didn’t see the value of trying if my vision of success were not fairly guaranteed. In a world of limited resources, giving up just made more sense.
Don’t give up. You can’t see the results of your actions yet. Some old friends of mine had a story of a similar sentiment posted on their refrigerator about a man who was asked by God to push a giant rock.
These have been frequent thoughts as my time in Japan comes to a close. I’m honestly not sure what I was trying to achieve as an end goal in coming other than having been helpful to the people around me — perhaps that’s a good thing, because this way I’m not distracted by thoughts of being a “failure” or a “success” at some greater goal. Coming here was the right thing to do. In the areas of linguistics, teaching skills, maturity, independence, fearlessness, human empathy, creativity, and faith in God, the simple acts of *effort * engaged here have helped me to grow in many ways unanticipated beforehand. Trying to do the best I can with the resources at hand is in all ways beneficial, regardless of the outcome. What better can anyone than that?
I am going home, but I’m not giving up.
“Through perseverance there is power.”