The glory of limitation

In limitation there is a special beauty. Whatever is limited is more dear. The less time we spend with someone, the more precious it is. The less a commodity is found, the higher its price. Limitation may confine our existence, but it is also the heart of value. When limits are placed on people, they become creative; when placed on experience, we become more aware. Few people pay attention so well as those who know things will end.

Limitation is not the bane of our existence, but its life. Whenever a person accomplishes great things by little means, there is cause for awe. The ninth symphony by Beethoven – my favorite work of music – was composed by a man who could not hear it. That fact alone speaks of glory.

We long to escape our bonds. We would rather have perfect sight, perfect hearing, perfect abilities. But if we had them, there would be no great beauty to our actions, no reason for stories to be written of great heroes facing tremendous odds. Life would be too perfect. There would be no thrill at the fact of accomplishment.

My friend Sina took up his pool cue one night, and jumped a ball over another to make a beautiful bank shot. He planned the shot, but was about to step away, saying it would be impossible. I said, it’s just a game, what can it hurt? So he did, and made it flawlessly. It was not the perfection of the shot that I admired most, but that he, a human being, had done such a thing. We were both in awe. It sent a chill through the room. I had to take a moment, just to appreciate the beauty of what I’d seen – even if it was something so simple, so meaningless.

Had Sina been a perfect being, I would have been no more impressed than if a robot had done it. It was not the action that was so beautiful, but the difficulty. Because I know the limits of human nature, I recognized in his actions a rare beauty.

In this way, the beauty of life lies, not in the perfections we achieve, but in the limitations we overcome to reach them. Who would watch the Olympics if it were not difficult to do such things? It is moving from a lower state to a higher that is glorious, not the higher state alone. It is not the top of a mountain alone which makes it worth climbing, but that it takes climbing to get there. There is something soulful to the climb, which a quick helicopter ride can never offer.

Imperfections, then, grant us access to the Divine, to beauty and glory. They are a doorway to different grade of being. They are the spirit’s foil, against whom the meaning of this drama unfolds.