You know the moment when somebody says one sentence in a movie and it suddenly hits you, because it feels like your line. The one message that you are all on about, but never nailed it verbally the way you just heard it on screen. That happened to me in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac when Christian Slater walks through a wintery forrest stating:
“It’s actually the souls of the trees we’re seeing in the winter. In summer everything is green and idyllic but in the winter, the branches and the trunks all stand out. Just look at how crooked they all are. The branches have to carry all the leaves to the sunlight. That’s one long struggle for survival.”
This hit me on many levels. Apart from being passionate about trees, I have this longing for naked and truthful purity and no-mascarade. It touches me and fills me up with warmth when I spot it – in nature, in animals, in children, and unfortunately less often in grown-up humans. We grow into a world where we learn to build up walls of perfection around us, hiding our true vulnerable selfs, our struggles, our reality of everyday lives, doing our best to hide a big part of who we are. That gets even absurd when you think of the perfect alter egos we create online to impress each other and to harvest digital appreciation for these perfect versions of ourselves.
Life is fragile. Life is vulnerable. And so are we. Walls of perfection cannot make that fact go away. On the contrary. These walls discourage us to allow others to see who and how we really are. These walls prevent us from seeing the real you and the real me.
I have just finished my master thesis on constructive error-culture focusing on an open, transparent way of dealing with errors and mistakes within an organization. It made me realize how scared we often are of making mistakes and of other people seeing our mistakes. Our longing to be loved and appreciated makes us believe that we need to be perfect and infallible.
There is beauty and the potential for real human connection in breaking down these walls and in letting go of this perfect mise-en-scène. Maybe our vulnerability is even the only way to be authentic and real. The one way towards empathy and trust. And in the work context, the one way towards team work, creativity and unlocking hidden potentials. If we allow “potential failure”, we allow something new to arise, we allow new roads to be discovered and new facets in us to be disclosed.
It is promising to hear that the way our society handles “errors” and “failures” gets more and more reflected upon. May the current trend on error-culture spread out and lead to less guilt-tripping, less shaming, less blaming. The stronger we get, the less we need these worn-out emotional patterns.
The soul is seen without the idyllic summer’s green. This is to those who dare to be seen without.