The Calligrapher’s Burden

Human nature desires control. What I mean by this is that as humans, we naturally want to have control over our environments. Who comes in, what goes out, what goes where, if I’m going to Starbucks today or if I’m studying for that quiz tomorrow, etc. We like to feel in control of what goes on around us because we find a sense of peace and security from it. But as much as control provides for us, the pursuit of control often becomes a goal in and of itself, and the journey towards that control can become costlier than the benefits of controlling whatever aspect of one’s life. Countless examples of academics who abandoned family and friends in pursuit of their career can attest to that.

I’ve been learning lately that trying to control every aspect of my life is not quite as noble a goal as I’d once thought, and in fact ends up hurting myself and those around me more often than not. It limits me, and places unnecessary goals on my life and those in my life. And I’m not the only one who had to learn this the hard way: Handaa from Barakamon learned something similar over the course of the series.

Over the 12-episode run of Barakamon, we see Handaa change from a self-important arrogant jerk into someone that the villagers really love. It doesn’t happen overnight, but there are several key lessons that Handaa has to learn before he can change, and they don’t come easily to him.

  1. He has to recognize that he isn’t perfect, and that his work isn’t perfect either. As a calligrapher, he takes great pride in his work, and he measures his own self-worth by the way his work is judged. His faithful and meticulous attention to the detail of the fundamentals of his art make his work precise and accurate, but they lack any of the originality that is inherent to the art of calligraphy. His work lacks the vibrance that brings calligraphy alive, and thus it falls flat because it lacks love from the artist. And in the same way, when I allow my own pride and arrogance into my relationships with those around me, I enforce uneasonable standards on myself and others. I substitute the love I have for them with a preconceived notion in my own head about how I should be treated and how I should treat others. And all too often, that destroys relationships and leads to pain.



  1. He has to He has to learn to love himself despite his faults. When he realizes what’s done and gets shipped to the island, Handaa has something of an identity crisis. He feels that he needs to reconnect with what made him a great artist to begin with, but he can’t. Not while he’s still angry and prideful over what happened to him. But behind his mask of pride…he’s hurt. His entire life was wrapped up in calligraphy, and when he failed in that one, lifelong goal, he felt that he failed as a person. He felt isolated on the island, and felt unloved by those around him. And when I also fail as a friend, a brother, a son, a student, I too feel isolated by my own shortcomings. I hate my own weakness and I feel as if I don’t even deserve to be loved. Enter Naru. Or in my case, other friends and the work of the Holy Spirit. God sends us encouragement when He sees that we’re struggling. Naru and the village kids helped Handaa to see that he could only begin to improve himself if he loved others and himself. And the Holy Spirit does something similar: when I stop hating myself, recognize that God Himself loves me, and surrender my own feelings to Him, I can begin the process of healing.



  1. Handaa has to empty himself in order to allow his inspiration and best work to flow. Over the course of the series, he practices calligraphy quite a lot, but only a few times does he create a piece that he can feel proud of. And each of those times he is inspired after a series of events that unlocked some hidden reservoir of talent within him. He can’t create his work while he is in turmoil, but he has to stop trying, he has to let go of his own ideas of how his art should be accomplished and simply let it flow from the well of talent within him. And in the same way, I can only be the best kind of friend, brother, and son when I let go of my own notions of what I think I need to be or what I think I should be, and I just let God use me. It shows when I don’t try to advise a friend with my opinion, or try to tell my sister what I think she should do in a certain situation, or try to complete an errand for my dad my way, but instead I look for a godly way to help them, point my sister to Christ, and humbly submit to my dad’s authority. It’s not easy to surrender myself and let God work through me. But it’s the only way that I can find true peace and satisfaction in my life.


When you’re depressed, it’s not easy to understand that you’re loved. When you’re angry, it’s hard to lay aside your own pride and see things from another’s perspective. When you’re sad, it’s hard to put aisde your own hurt. But the only way that we can find peace through all of these circumstances is by realizing that we aren’t perfect: we’re hurting people in a hurting world. But just because we aren’t perfect doesn’t mean that we aren’t being perfected. We can be confident in the fact that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phi 1:6), and that we’re never alone in our suffering. God uses our pain to bring to light every aspect of our lives that we need to surrender to Him, and He helps us to overcome them with every pained face, with every trembling hand, and with every tear.


I'm a student who loves God and manages to balance school, games, books, anime, and Asian culture while staying slightly sane.

  • everEsther

    I can totally relate. 😛 I don’t like it when I can’t control my life, or when I work hard at something and things don’t turn out like I’d expected/wanted. Good reminder – that we aren’t perfect but are being perfected.

    • It’s definitely not an easy lesson to learn. I’m still struggling with it a lot. But I can only be perfected if I allow Him to perfect me, and when I resist and try to do things my own way, it tends to mess things up. XD Humility is definitely key to allowing God to work in our hearts.

  • Peter B.

    When you said ‘… And when I also fail as a friend….’ I was going to comment with “Pfft! tell us another!” But that last paragraph Is so true! Thank you!