Beyond Brushstrokes

Spring officially began on March 21st . In our tropical country, it is also the start of the long, hot summer season.

We are having a surreal experience. The series of consecutive disasters around the world seemed to be a prologue of the overwhelming, devastating pandemic nightmare. Time seems to fly. There is nothing to look forward to — at least until it is over.

How shall we survive?

By being good citizens and following all the important, difficult instructions. By praying and being grateful for the blessings. By simplifying our lives and reinforcing the traditional values. By relearning the basic lessons. By sharing and helping others.

On the practical side, people are coping by doing the mundane chores of spring cleaning. It is the external organization of one’s files — personal and professional. It is deciding what to keep, what to give away or discard. It is the act of downsizing, rearranging furnishings to make space. For something new or just having empty breathing space. In a house or a tiny studio, one tends to accumulate clutter over the years.

One has to let go of the voluminous folders, papers, books, piles of sentimental stuff, little and big.

Change is essential.

The act of organizing symbolizes an internal distillation process.

Introspection triggers mixed feelings — the unloading of emotional baggage, hurt feelings, imagined wrongs, repressed anger, envy and pain. Thoughts that have repressed come to the surface.

One of the most precious things in life is the gift of friendship. Its elements are mutual loyalty, love, compassion, understanding, humility and a sense of selflessness.

A genuine friendship is nurtured. It endures, strengthened by mutual experiences — the roller coaster twists and turns, ups and downs. Some childhood friends will eventually grow up to become best buddies, wedding sponsors, godparents for their kids, work colleagues. They will survive the petty quarrels and transcend many differences — in career choices, religious and political beliefs and other issues.

One passes important milestones, hurdles obstacles and survives the crises with a steadfast mate.

Upon reaching the crossroads, a true friend is there to hold one’s hand, through thick and thin, feast and famine. In fair and foul weather.

Inevitably, like the moon and the tides, there are natural cycles — the ebb and flow, the waxing and waning of a long-standing friendship.

A sudden rupture, personal or professional, may separate former confidantes. A minor spat can easily be repaired — like a tiny tear or a scratch. However, a severe misunderstanding can be a devastating wound. It festers and deteriorates.

Communication ceases as defensive walls sprout. Worse than geographical distance is the surge of false pride. The inability to admit a mistake, to be contrite, to act with humility and sincerity.

In Greek classical drama, hubris is “overweening pride that leads to disaster… the refusal to accept the authority of the gods.” This character flaw can drown the individual in emotional quicksand.

A treasured heirloom figurine, once shattered can be patched and restored painstakingly. However the delicate pieces would have missing chips and hairline cracks. From a distance, it may resemble the original. Despite expert gluing and mending, the fine flaws appear. There is no perfect finish. People observe that the imperfect patina with scars can give the object character.

Like the fragile figurine, a patched friendship may appear normal on the surface. A glaze of social niceties can camouflage the profound inner damage. Underneath the cool exterior, the fissure would still be vulnerable to the slightest tremor.

To heal a wound completely, it is necessary for the protagonists to seek forgiveness and forgive. Nothing less than a mutual reaching out and reconciliation. Cracks and scars notwithstanding, a friendship that goes through the test of fire will endure. The gruff, begrudging attitude of an arrogant person is not acceptable. GK Chesterton once wrote, “A stiff apology is a second insult.”

To illustrate, here is an anecdote on apology Baron Beaverbrook ran into young British MP Edward Heath in his London club’s washroom soon after printing an insulting editorial in his newspaper. Beaverbrook said contritely, “I’ve been thinking it over, and I was wrong.” MP Heath replied, “Very well. Next time, please insult me in the washroom and apologize in your newspaper.”

For those people who have been hurt beyond endurance and apology, it is useless to go down to the level of the enemy. Hold your head high. Keep your dignity and move on.

There is karma. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to see it happen.

The British poet and clergyman George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote, “Living well is the best revenge.” This will pass. One looks forward to the healing light after the confusing darkness.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.