I came across a wonderful phrase in the Japanese language this past few days. The expression wabi-sabi, derived from ancient Buddhist teachings, refers to things of great beauty but which are also home to tiny imperfections and flaws.
The concept is found through many areas of Japanese culture, from pottery to architecture, and has many adherents around the world. Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey is believed to be a fan.
This notion of things being tremendous and desirable despite containing obvious flaws is a great prism to look through when contemplating our nation’s future. This past few weeks have been a frantic and disestablishing, in which the over-arching message seems to have been about managing expectations.
Parliament has continued to say no to virtually everything, even defeats of a handful of votes seem to be treated as victories, and the message over and over again seems to be about protecting and defending our economy, rather than augmenting and enhancing it.
Front and backbenchers alike have been forced onto the backfoot for months now as they struggle to reach a consensus over how to best implement the referendum result.
They are hamstrung by the forces from the fringes, with the debate all too often dominated by those who either cannot accept the result of the 2016 referendum, or those who favour us joining the empty list of nations who trade solely on World Trade Organisation rules.
As the struggle to find a sensible middle ground continues we must not allow ourselves to continue to have our lives dominated by the debate but rather look at this whole matter as a grand example of wabi-sabi being manifested in stark terms.
The impasse is undesirable, brings great uncertainty and stokes up more division in our great nation but it is not the only story unfolding in Britain right now.
Here are just a few things to be proud of from the last week alone. Late last week saw the launch of the Leeds Manufacturing Festival. In conjunction with Bradford Manufacturing Week, it aims to highlight and champion the considerable opportunities that the sector has to young people.
Around 50 Leeds manufacturers backed the launch at the Leeds City College Printworks Campus and the event aims to foster tie-ups between schools, colleges and Leeds businesses will host factory tours by students and manufacturers visiting schools, as well as taster days and work experience initiatives involving around 10,000 young people across the city.
Similarly, the Bradford Manufacturing Week aims to double the reach it had from last year’s successful debut, which saw some 2,200 students having in-school activities and 2,535 students taking part.
More than anything it will hopefully begin to dispel some of the negativity around the sector’s image. Leeds alone is the UK’s third largest manufacturing centre, home to more than 1,800 manufacturing firms and employing 26,000 people. Meanwhile Bradford’s manufacturing sector has a GVA of £9.5bn.
And, of course, this past few days have seen more positive noises coming out of the Humber area as it continues with its superb ambition to become a clean energy epicentre. This supplement is filled today with several examples of high-end deals and investments involving our region’s firms.
They are creating jobs, fostering international link-ups and innovating services. These matters must be given more attention and prominence.
These are dark and worrying times but we cannot keep viewing the nation through this negative prism.
Brexit is a huge issue but not the only issue. We have always been a country defined by wabi-sabi, and in all likelihood this will never change. But there are still huge successes we should be proud of and navel-gazing on just one area will not help perceptions of our nation, either from abroad or in our own hearts.
Maybe that way things like the Brexit impasse will be viewed as minor imperfections rather than seismic cracks.