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
Kintsugi or kintsukuroi (roughly translating to golden repair or golden joinery) is the traditional Japanese art of mending pottery using lacquer resin mixed with gold, silver or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to hide. The mended “flaws” become part of the object’s design and beauty, and for some, the mended object becomes even more beautiful having been broken and then repaired. Imperfectly perfect, you could say.
Without realising it, I had my first experience of kintsugi as a child. My most cherished piece of jewellery is a jade bangle that belonged to my grandmother, who in turn, received it from her mother. The story goes that my grandmother, who wore the jade bangle on her wrist every day, happened to be standing under a tree when it was struck by lightning. The tree fell on her and she was thrown to the ground and her jade bangle broke into four pieces but she was otherwise unharmed. My grandmother believed that the jade bangle protected her so my grandfather fixed the jade bangle by joining the broken pieces of jade together with gold seams and a gold hinge. And when I was born, the precious jade bangle was passed on to me. Obviously, I have never seen the jade bangle in its original form but for me, the mended bangle is perfect and I can’t imagine it any other way. Like kintsukuroi, I see the scratches on the jade and its golden joints as symbols of an event that happened in the life of the bangle, rather than the cause of its destruction.
Like objects, we endure our own bumps and scrapes, unexpected knock backs and rejections and heartbreaks. And sometimes, these experiences leave us feeling worse for wear, so vulnerable, we may vow never to feel that way again and we stay hidden in the cupboard, right behind the best china and our finest silver, because we don’t wish to be knocked around again, or cracked or worst of all, be (heart)broken again.
I am not saying that all trauma, tragedy and heartbreak makes us beautiful but all significant events change us and we have a choice to reject or discard our experiences and wish them away and live in the land of regrets and distract ourselves with work and busyness.
Or we can choose to see these experiences for what they are: our golden repair.
When we get knocked, chipped, cracked and broken, it feels crap and once those initial feelings dissipate (and that may take a while), what we are left with is how we process the experiences and the lessons we learn from the experiences, if we choose to.
Our experiences don’t define us, but they can influence us. We can decide to hide or to embrace the experiences that have shaped us, in some way, big and small, and to apply some gold dust to where we’ve been hurt or broken or cracked open. And then to go out into the world, as ourselves, with our golden mended breaks and all. Our wounds and healing are part of our story; a part of who we are. Every beautiful thing is damaged.
Where are your golden seams?