In today’s Western society we put a high value on new, pristine items. We have no shame in removing and replacing damaged or broken objects from our lives, whether they are tangible ornaments or shattered people. Value is assigned and increased if there are no visible signs of flaws. And we have it all wrong.
The Japanese hold a much greater appreciation for the overall beauty and history of an object and go to great lengths to preserve it.
Kintsugi is the 500-year-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with liquid gold or silver. The name literally means ‘golden joinery’ and the philosophy behind it believes the cracks or breaks are part of the history and journey of the object and something to be treasured and not disguised or discarded. In fact, the repair is literally highlighted with the precious metals and now becomes the focal point of the beautiful piece.
Muneaki Shimode is the youngest professional Kintsugi craftsman in Japan and at the age of 27 here are his words.. “in Japanese culture, it’s very important that we understand the spiritual backgrounds or the history behind the material. This is interwoven with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which means “to find beauties in broken things or old things.”
Kintsugi puts emphasis not on the replacement, but on the reverence of the original piece and all its history. The gold is about much more than appearance, it is about the admiration and awe of the journey.
What can we learn from this time-honored and intricate process? Oh, my dear friends, I hope a lot.
How many ‘broken’ people do you know, with shattered lives or dreams? How often do we ourselves feel fractured and believe we have nothing whole and worthwhile left to present the world? We cannot allow our disposable society to dictate how we view our lives and our personal worth. Life will knock us down for sure. These knocks take the form of mistakes we have made, misguided decisions, or even the consequences of another’s choice that made its way to our doorstep. Illness and disease can also cause scars; physically and emotionally. We do not make it very far down our life’s road before we start collecting cracks until one day we wake up and discover we are left standing, trying to hold together the fragments with sheer grit and fear.
So what can we do? How do we put the pieces back together to form a work of art even more beautiful than before? What precious metals do we use?
Acceptance and Understanding are two good ones to start with. One is for yourself, and the other is for your neighbor. We need to accept and own our own cracks. We need to embrace that the challenges we have faced, good or bad, have left an impression. That last crack you were convinced would be the final shattering break is actually the cornerstone for the new work of art that you are becoming. How exciting and promising is that thought! Then, once you learn to accept the flaws in your life, extend a little understanding for the blemishes in others. This is much easier when those do not directly affect you, but regardless, we are all on this path together. Encourage someone today. Uplift them with words of hope and remind them how totally unique and valuable they are. Your understanding and support of them may be the first coat of restorative sealant in their hearts.
Forgiveness is the next step in reworking your life’s design. Acceptance only acknowledges the breaks occurred, but forgiveness rounds out the sharp edges and takes away the sting. It opens your heart to the welcoming warmth of the healing process. Find a way to let go of the guilt and regret. Make amends or correct your course, but always forgive yourself. Forgiveness of others also aids in your healing. The act of forgiveness is not about a gift bestowed on another, it is a gift to you to move on. The one being forgiven may also benefit, but it is meant to be a cleansing for your soul.
Finally, Love is the most precious ‘metal’ of all. The lowest points in my life were guided and pushed along with the unfailing love of a few very precious people; both family and friends. We should never turn away from those who value and advance us even if we feel ugly and shattered. Their love will help restore our luster and worth. And when you pour love into the cracks and broken pieces of another’s heart it forms a protective and exquisite seal.
The beauty here is that love does not even have to be familiar. Here is what I mean….
I have a wonderfully sweet friend who has gone through some fairly serious cracks in her own life recently. But instead of folding and packing away her pieces, she is moving forward with them radiantly on display and paying it forward. She recently shared an encounter she had with a young homeless man. Most people (I included, sadly) would have looked the other way, made a judgment or not even given thought at all, but not her. She recognized the pain she saw in his eyes and set about to pour some precious ‘metal’ into his broken life. She wasn’t naïve or foolish, but very direct and focused in her words and actions. It shamed me for never having the courage or insight to do what she did. But my point is, she did not have to know him or ever see him again to pour love into him and make a difference. I know beyond all certainty that she impacted his life in far-reaching and marvelous ways. She created a Kintsugi moment for this young man.
No one piece of ‘life’s pottery’ looks the same and that is the magic and wonder of it all. My hope is, after reading this; you will have a greater appreciation for the events in your life that you thought had broken you. I hope you understand that these battle scars are unique only to you and create a one of kind artistic display of your courage and resilience, that you are still valuable with purpose and contribution. May the precious metals of acceptance, forgiveness, and love weave a golden thread of peace and joy into your heart.
Here’s to your very own Life’s Kintsugi Masterpiece!
Hope With Abandon