Kintsukuroi : The Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with gold silver or platinum powder.
Have you ever broken something you love? A favourite coffee cup, a decorative vase or bowl, something that to you represented beauty, life or simply was an extension of yourself (if I were an action figure I’d come with a coffee cup accessory.) When the thing you loved broke what did you do? If you are anything like me, you probably mourned it for a few moments, before discarding it and moving on.
We live in an increasingly material world, where it is not only part of our culture to replace that which is broken, but to replace or attain things which we may not necessarily need. We revel in the comfort of physical possession, because it is something tangible which we can use as a marker of attainment.
In a society where it is easier to replace than to fix, it is often easy to overlook the little things, and discard that which just doesn’t work.
A few years ago, I learned about a Japanese art form called ‘Kintsukuroi (or Kintsugi)’. In Japan when something breaks, rather than discard it, the broken thing can be repaired by fusing the pieces back together filling in the spaces with a precious metal. The metal is usually gold or silver, but when finished the broken thing will often end up being more beautiful than it was before.
This art form isn’t reserved for items which are already expensive, instead the art form is used by those who wish to retain something sentimental by fixing what broken and in so doing making it more than it ever was.
This art resonates with me because I feel that the lesson to be learned from the art is something that can go beyond fixing objects. It can be applied to people. These last few weeks have been difficult. Without going into too much, for the past few weeks I have been the broken mug. Split into pieces, sharp cutting edges which when handled can do more damage to a person than can ever be done to the object itself.
I for too long was cracked, and leaking, but yet I still tried to carry myself at full capacity giving to those who required the sustenance that I carried. The problem is when your cup leaks, and you still share the contents with others, you run the risk of emptying. Once I was empty, I felt like the mug falling from a great height, smashing into pieces as I hit the ground.
At that point I could have discarded the mug, and walked away. But instead I collected the pieces, sometimes the sharp edges cut me and I had to stop collecting for a moment to deal with the cut, before continuing to gather the pieces. After a few weeks the pieces are there, and those that are lost, instead of detracting from the rebuild can be replaced with the precious metal which is available.
The difference between a mug, bowl or whatever else is being repaired and person is that the precious metal is not something that can be easily found. Each fragment, work, life, relationships, friendships they can be brought back together. But until you are able to bind them, you run the risk of the pieces once again falling apart. So what is it that we have have to find in order to fuse our broken edges? I don’t know yet, not fully. But I suspect that the answer lies perhaps in the strongest resource on the planet. That resource is of course love. But, a special kind of love, the love of others can hold us together and make is strong, but I don’t think it has the power to fix things. Not properly.
The most powerful love out there, is self love. Something which those who have been broken may be able to empathise with. Finding love for yourself can be difficult, and it can be frustrating, because just when you think you’ve got it, you can just as quickly be knocked right back down. It can be frustrating, it can seem like all of the work you have done is for nothing. It can make you doubt the beauty that you know yourself to possess.
However, with patience, attention and forgiveness in your heart you can use the negatives to bolster yourself, becoming stronger than you ever were before. Once you bring yourself back together, and truly reflect on that which challenges you and tries to tear you apart and break you down. You can begin to put yourself back together, with a strength you may not have ever had to begin with.
Today, you may feel like you are the broken mug. But, don’t push yourself, collect the pieces. Find the beauty in your life, and bring everything together. Once you do, you may just find you are more valuable than you ever realised, and that your true beauty is not in makes you whole, but the scars that you have filled with gold.
It’s not about becoming what you once were, once broken you will never be the same again. But that should never be the reason to stop trying to rebuild. What you end up with will look different, but as long as you love it. And truly appreciate it for what it is, that love will keep you together no matter what you do.