A crack in everything
Rain is pouring down in unprecedented quantities this summer over central Europe. Dense. Tropical. Excessive. Fueling the discussion about climate change, of course, and some chronic contradictory statements. From “I’ve never seen this where I live in my whole life!” to “That’s how the summers used to be when I was young”.
For my part, I have a reminiscence of fairly wet summers in my youth, quite rarely offering us very long strings of totally sunny days. But I definitely believe it was not as extreme in rain or heat as it has been lately.
When it rains, I love to listen to some older music. So maybe it was indeed rainier back then, and I instinctively let the emotional waves of the state of mind I felt at the time gently pull me to and fro. The other day, I was turning the volume up on a song by the great Canadian bard, Leonard Cohen. It was Anthem, on the album noticeably named The Future, released in 1992. Maybe not my favourite song, but surely some of the most powerful poetry he’s written! I’m sure you’ve heard it before:
There is a crack, a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in…
You can read this in so many ways, it always brings these consoling thoughts with it: that total perfection is not a goal, that failure is part of our human nature, and will not destroy us but help us go forward. A message of hope in a world that wasn’t yet badly threatened by environmental issues.
Speaking of which. One of these cracks, quite literally, is the ozone hole. In the 90s, it reached 11% of the earth’s protective layer, and let in much more than light: essentially extremely damaging ultraviolet radiation. But it also brought the world’s countries together to fight against it. It paved the way for the Montreal protocol, the first international agreement signed by all nations in the history of the UN, “a milestone for all people and our planet”. The ozone layer has been mostly recovering ever since.
From poetry to pottery
In the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, broken pottery is repaired with a gold-powdered lacquer, resulting in an object more beautiful than before it was fractured. Similarly, the ozone threat has made visible the unity and frailty of humankind, and made it better. It would be great if we could reach more agreements like this one, bringing societies together to help the recovery of our fragile ecosystems. Mastering the ongoing plastic tide, for example, would certainly be an urgent contender.
In our manufacturing world, natural fibers, as opposed to artificial ones, are also where I like to see the kind of crack that can bring us some light. Just look at the beauty of a magnified yarn of wool: spiral structures turning in opposite directions, spikes, crimps, curls, irregularities. Quite stunning, and every bit unlike the constantly repeating, uninspiring and uniform structure of synthetic fabrics. This even surface is plastic, and the “perfection” of it also renders it almost indestructible. It will stay as plastic, wherever it ends, almost forever.
Following the poet, I fancy to imagine that the microscopic structure of those materials we can find and use in nature incorporates a crack, allowing them to be biodegradable. That’s how the light gets in!
The weather has cleared up, and my playlist has jazzier tunes besides the somber voice of Leonard. They seem better suited to breezy days with a little sunshine and fluffy cumuli. But dry or wet, I will always have a special place in my heart for Anthem, and its strange but beautiful truth.