“Ring the bells that can still ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That is how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Kintsukuroi (“golden mend”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver.
As well as a clever form of repair, kintsukuroi has a deeper philosophical significance for Japanese artists. The mended flaws become part of the object’s design, and some people believe the pottery to be even more beautiful having gone through the process of being broken and repaired. Through kintsukuroi, the cracks and seams are merely a symbol of an event that happened in the life of the object, rather than the cause of its destruction.
“Just to be clear I don’t want to get out without a broken heart. I intend to leave this life so shattered there’s gonna have to be a thousand separate heavens for all of my flying parts.” – Andrea Gibson
In thinking about kintsukuroi, I couldn’t help but feel the significance for us in our messy broken lives. We experience drops from a dizzying height and unexpected knocks. We are often broken and shattered by our experiences. Sometimes, even if the experiences do not break us, they plant the seeds of shame: rejection, betrayal, abandonment, failure. So we try to avoid experiences that leave us vulnerable to these feelings as much as possible, lest the people around us see the evidence of just how imperfect, flawed, and “not good enough” we really are.
“The perilous highs, and desperate lows, and extravagant flurries of mood are not always symptoms of a broken mind, but signs of a beating heart.” – Terri Cheney
I used to truly believe that there was something wrong with me – that my brokenness was permanent, irreparable, and somehow made me weak. I believed that my inability to fully process, identify and understand what was happening in my head and in my heart was a sign that it was somehow invalid or unimportant.
Dealing with trauma or tragedy and coming out the other end is probably about as ugly as it gets – there is no way that these experiences will automatically make us more beautiful. The experiences change us, create cracks and breaks in us that were not there before.
Yet, how we repair and recover is where we can find the beauty. We can choose to reject our bitter experiences and flaws, to wish and will them away, to regret, to pine, and to live in the land of “If only…” We can disguise with false-self personas, cover up with defences, distract with busyness.
Or we can choose to see these experiences as our golden seams.
Our experiences don’t define us, but they do change us. We can decide to hide, or we can decide to recognise that, no matter how awful these experiences may have been – they have shaped us in some small way, the cracks and breaks are being repaired with our own special coating of gold-laced resin. We can decide to cover up, or we can decide to walk out into the world as ourselves, mended breaks and all.
“Not all wound are so visible. Walk gently in the lives of others.”