Last week, on a quiet evening, I discovered a small, bright scratch on the screen of my beloved reading companion Touchy, an electronic delight of the Kindle Paperwhite variety, for I categorically refuse to consider it a mere inanimate object. This small, lightweight, nice-to-hold electronic delight with its beautifully illuminated screen has brought me much joy over the past two years, transporting me to many different worlds and into many different lives, and has given wings to my thoughts and stirred in me most agreeable emotions.
Now a little scratch may not seem like much to you, but to me, an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist who takes great care of all his belongings and who never breaks, damages, or drops things, and who still has most of his childhood toys and even a seven-year-old pair of sneakers which he still wears with pride, this scratch was comparable to a lesion on the brain. Especially since Touchy makes it easy for me to read classics in the public domain whose purchase and shipment from abroad to Romania would not only require a hefty investment, but also the martyrdom of countless trees.
How could it have happened? I blamed myself for being careless. But then I could not remember for the life of me ever scratching it. Nor did I carry it on me recently. Almighty Google soon clarified the matter – the scratch was just a technical flaw of the screen, something that had just suddenly happened to other people.
My conscience was somewhat pacified. But still, could I continue to read on it Montaigne and Maupassant and Rumi and Shakespeare and the rest of the classical lot with that bright scratch on the screen? I tried. My eyes kept lingering on the scratch though, dwelling upon the imperfection and vulnerability of our material existence, while the meaning of the words on the screen dissolved into profound indifference. I felt miserable, so much so that I decided to purchase a replacement right away. Amazon was contacted and, the item being out of warranty, they offered me a discount on a new purchase. But it so happened that I could not decide which model to buy, so I had to postpone the purchase to the next day.
And then something interesting happened. That night I picked up the wounded Touchy and attempted to read on it again. The scratch greatly distracted me, and I kept repeating to myself that all hope was lost, that Touchy’s lifetime has come to an end. But guess what? The more time I spent with it, tolerating its imperfection, the less grave its flaw seemed. Before long, I surprised myself saying, ‘Just a tiny scratch!’ Soon the scratch stopped being a sore to the eye, and I began to feel that the lesion on my brain was slowly healing too.
By the following day the scratch felt more like a beauty spot, a rugged one admittedly, but a distinguishing feature that made Touchy ‘more’ mine. Now I read on Touchy more than before and wouldn’t change it even if they offered me a replacement for free.
‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ – Leonard Cohen
I’m sure that you too have or will have at one point something dear to you, something electronic or maybe something old or even something of flesh and bone, a friend, or a lover even, something scratched or cracked or damaged in some way, something flawed. Maybe you shouldn’t try to fix it if it’s not altogether broken, if it still ‘works’. And think twice, thrice, even before replacing it. We need scratches, we need cracks, we need flaws. They may upset the eye, they may annoy us, but if we look beyond appearances, then these imperfections can help us understand the value that the thing (or him or her) has for us, and appreciate it more.