Broken becomes beautiful
A piece about optimism and hope.
Kintsugi means to join with gold. The Japanese practice is centuries-old, and refers to the technique of repairing - with great care – broken ceramics using a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold.
What’s important to know is that when using this technique, there’s no attempt to hide the break. Instead, the fault-lines are highlighted, show-cased and celebrated and the result is a remarkably beautiful one-of-a-kind piece of art.
While this is the literal definition of kintsugi, the term also refers to the philosophy of kintsugi and is often used metaphorically. So, in this metaphorical sense - what are we joining? And why do we use gold?
As humans, we are imperfect. We make mistakes, errors of judgement, choose to prioritise some things over others. We hold world views based on our individual perspectives and life stories. While we may - and hopefully do - work on ourselves, we still usually have some blind spots that can trip us up.
Life is imperfect. We play the hand of cards we’re dealt – and while we hopefully play that deck to the best of our ability, life can present challenges and things can break. Bowls, cups, saucers… plans, dreams, hearts.
Sometimes we’ll break someone else’s heart; sometimes someone will break our heart. Sometimes we’ll break each other’s.
And maybe this is okay.
It seems somewhere along the way we decided things should be a certain way. Sometimes we come up with these ideas ourselves and sometimes society seems to come up with them for us. Without adequate self-inquiry and questioning of the way things are we can find ourselves in trouble.
What gave us the idea that nothing would ever stray from the ideas we had in our minds? Or that nothing would ever break – and need to be repaired? And perhaps more importantly, when did we decide that the plan we had in our mind was the best plan for us, for our particular life?
So – one of the things I’m saying is this: If you’re a living, breathing human being, you’ve been broken at some point. Maybe you’re going through a repair right now. If you’re lucky it hurt (or hurts) – because as they say: “A heart that hurts is a heart that works”. And the only thing worse than feeling the pain of being broken is not feeling the pain of being broken.
When something does break, hopefully we can take it as a redirection and an opportunity for growth, awareness, and newfound strength. Along with compassion, empathy, kindness, and a new and better way to relate to people, to life – to ourselves.
Being broken and subsequently repaired can help us understand, grow from and benefit from failure*. (*I use the word failure tentatively here.) It’s about accepting that not everything is within our control. But also admitting when we are wrong, and when we have made a mistake. Of going through a process of rupture and repair - and coming out stronger.
So – back to our earlier question. What are we joining with gold? The answer is quite simple. We’re joining whatever has been broken. And we’re using gold because it’s beautiful. Because it showcases the damage, rather than trying to hide it. Because it makes whatever has been broken better than it was before. Because it makes the broken beautiful.
Just sit with that for a moment.
Author’s note: I need to say – and this is important – some life events are well out of the scope of what I’m talking about here as they’re simply too big and I’m not at all qualified to talk about them. Dear reader, this piece is in no way an attempt to trivialise these kinds of events in any way where it is not appropriate (or kind).