Lauren B. Davis

Lauren B. Davis
Princeton, New Jersey, United States
September 05
Lauren B. Davis's new novel, OUR DAILY BREAD (HarperCollins Canada, 2012; and Wordcraft of Oregon, 2011), was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and chosen as one of the "Very Best Books of 2011" by The Boston Globe and The Globe & Mail. Her next book, THE EMPTY ROOM, will be published in Canada by HarperCollins Canada in May, 2013. She is also the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed novels, THE RADIANT CITY, (HarperCollins Canada 2005) a finalist for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize; and THE STUBBORN SEASON (Harper Collins Canada, 2002), chosen for the Robert Adams Lecture Series; as well as two collections short stories, AN UNREHEARSED DESIRE (Exile Editions, 2008) and RAT MEDICINE & OTHER UNLIKELY CURATIVES (Mosaic Press, 2000). Her short fiction has also been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards and she is the recipient of two Mid-Career Writer Sustaining grants from the Canadian Council for the Arts - 2000 and 2006. Lauren leads a monthly writing workshop in Princeton, New Jersey, teaches creative writing at the A.C. Wagner Correctional Facility, and is a past mentor with the Humber College School for Writers, Toronto, and past Writer-in-Residence at Trinity Church, Princeton. For more information, please visit her website at:


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FEBRUARY 5, 2013 5:48PM

The Spirituality of Imperfection

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IN the Japanese tradition of
In the Japanese tradition of "Wabi-Sabi" that which is imperfect is considered deeply spiritual and beautiful.

I'm re-reading a great book right now, called THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION.  Sounds tailor-made for me, doesn't it?  I know, I know.

This books speaks to me on several levels -- as a person staying sober one day at a time, as a writer, and as someone seeking a closer relationship with the Sacred.  In a nutshell, this book is about accepting the human condition, and finding meaning even within suffering.  Not that suffering is required,you understand, but that suffering isn't a sign of failure.

Those of us who live in the western world, particularly in the United States, often feel as though unless we're happy, happy, happy, all the flippin' time, that we're doing something wrong.

A dear friend and I were talking today -- she's an actor and I'm a writer -- about how things were going in our respective lives.  I said I had just received a rejection letter from an editor that was so damn good I was tempted to use it as a blurb on the back of the book should it ever get a US publisher (it has a wonderful Canadian publisher.) 

"What did the letter say?" she asked.

"It said, I’ve never encountered an account of alcoholism (in books or on film) that helped me to understand the disease quite so vividly. Still, for some reason they ain't buying it!"

She laughed and asked why it was Canadian publishers were often more comfortable with this kind of novel than American publishers.

"Perhaps it's that Northern thing," I said.  "Like Swedes and Norwegians, we're more accepting of melancholy and of shadows.  Not everything has to be bright and shiny.  Although, look, the book does have a happy ending . . . "

"But," she said, "we Americans aren't known for our patience, either."


Living with reasonable sanity as a writer -- or living with reasonable sanity as anything, for that matter -- requires a certain degree of comfort with ambiguity.  As Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham say in The Spirituality of Imperfection:

"We modern people are problem-solvers, but the demand for answers crowds out patience -- and perhaps, especially, patience with mystery, with that which we cannot control.  Intolerant of ambiguity, we deny our own ambivalences, searching for answers to our most anguished questions in technique, hoping to find an ultimate healing in technology.  But feelings of dislocation, isolation, and of off-centeredness persist, as they always have."

And so, they go on to say,

"Spirituality hears and understands the pain in these questions, but its wisdom knows better than to attempt an 'answer'.  Some answers we only find; they are never 'given'.  And so the tradition [of spirituality] suggests: Listen! Listen to stories!  For spirituality itself is conveyed by stories, which use words in ways that go beyond words to speak the language of the heart.  Especially in a spirituality of imperfection, a spirituality of not having all the answers, stories convey the mystery and the miracle -- the adventure -- of being alive."

And so, even if not everyone 'gets' our work, even if we don't get what we think we want, we rest in the miracle and the mystery, and that is enough.




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I hear you, and somehow, you reach me inside, in my most vulnerable place, which is, my weakness for beer.
I don't believe in God, but I do believe in people; I don't believe in AA meetings, but I do believe that some people can reach me inside, where it counts, in ways that others can't.
Somehow, your words make me feel less alone.
Thanks again, and keep on writing.
Steve -- Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hmm.... doesn't sound like the beer's making you happy. That's a loneliness with which I'm certainly familiar. I do believe in AA, not just the meetings, but the steps. That's what turned things around for me. But that's just me. In any case . . . I sincerely hope you find a way out that works for you. If you get stuck, maybe you could try AA again -- we'll be here. L.
I wish my patients who try too hard NOT to feel depressed and anxious would learn more easily to embrace and absorb their feelings, realizing that it is OK that they are only human, and still do what they can to live well.
Jackie -- I know exactly what you mean. You might have them read the book. It speaks so wonderfully of the necessity of living with ambiguity, with the "yes/and" rather than the either/or. I wrote an essay some time ago which several psychologists have told me their patients found useful . . . here's the link, just in case there's something there you can use: And thanks so much for commenting.