Last night, Ian and I watched an amazing documentary about sushi. Only it wasn't really about sushi. It was about an ordinary man who has dedicated his life to greatness, to perfection, in short: to mastering the art of sushi.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (available on Netflix streaming) is inspirational to say the least. Jiro Ono is 85 years old and has been perfecting sushi for 75 years. It is (almost literally) all he does. He says:
"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably."
I've been thinking about this and what it means in my life. I'm obviously not in love with my job but I AM in love with my work...my creative work. Except...I haven't been behaving like it. I get tired of my projects, abandon them halfway through. I sit on the couch and watch tv rather than force myself to go into the studio. My back hurts, I'm tired, sewing is repetitive, painting takes too much effort.
Why is it that before last night I never realized what being in love with my work meant? The secret of success...immerse yourself in your work, fall in love with it, never complain about it, dedicate your life to mastering your skill. Like all relationships, you get out what you put in. No wonder sewing gets boring...I don't strive for greatness. No wonder the thought of painting is overwhelming...I have not dedicated my life to perfecting my skills.
"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."
I used to think doing the same thing over and over again was a waste of time...why not move on to something that poses new challenges? After watching this movie, I understand that it is not one or the other that cultivates satisfaction. We must work to improve skills we already have and use them to push our work to new heights, to climb, to try to reach the top even though no one knows where the top is.
I have much more thinking to do about this but in the meantime, if you feel at all stuck, bored, uninspired, imperfect, incomplete...please watch this documentary. If you don't feel any of those things (lucky!) but you really, really love sushi, this is also the documentary for you.
(A note about the photos in this post...while writing this, I remembered the time I made a bunch of Dresdens for my friend Jen...a project that, had I been making it for myself, I would have quit after the first one. But I didn't quit...instead, I worked hard for days and never once got bored, never once wanted to quit. There was something so peaceful yet exciting about making those Dresdens. It was repetitive but with each blade sewn, each circle completed, each Dresden sewn to the background fabric, I felt that much closer to perfecting Dresdens. It was one tiny moment in a life-long pursuit of artistic perfection. It was one step closer to the top...wherever that may be.)