I thought becoming myself was improving each part piece by piece but it was finding a hidden wholeness; seeing the fractures as the design.
Ah, the great asymmetry of life. If you’ve ever broken something precious or of great value, you’d be familiar with the feelings of sadness and disappointment that go along with it. It can seem like the object in question is ruined and worth less than before. Similarly, our own brokenness and flaws can make us feel less worthy. The Ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, spanning over five hundred years, involves taking broken objects and mending them with lacquer, dusted or mixed with precious metals the like of Gold, Silver and Platinum. These golden seams follow the broken lines of the object, serving to highlight and embellish rather than hide them away. Through this method, the object in question increases in worth, becoming more valuable rather than less so.
It takes bravery to bare our most authentic selves to the world. To share our perceived imperfections, mistakes and to act with vulnerability doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. However, it makes no sense to hide them. The cracks and chips on a piece of pottery are indicative of its usefulness and value, as well as the journey it has been on. Similarly, the entirety of our weathered being points to our experience, humanity and the stage of learning we have reached. When you take the damaged or difficult parts of yourself and repair them with loving and compassionate hands, those cracks take on a more beautiful form than you ever could’ve hoped for previously. What if, instead of working to conceal your imperfections, you embraced them with open arms and let them shimmer with gold?
The possibility of repairing an object and therefore increasing its beauty and value is far less important than its underlying philosophy that speaks of the true nature of life. It consists not only of integrity but also of rupture and instability. To know one, you must also have experienced the other. Both are worthy of acceptance and can provide teachable moments. To the Japanese people, surface level imperfection is incapable of ruining the harmony of an object. Its cracks should be exhibited proudly; accepted and valued for what they are and the meaning they bring. The scars and wounds of the soul need also be treated in a similar fashion as they are part of man and his history.
Kintsugi shows us that a superior form can be reborn from a restored wound, from the slow reparation of a fracture. The signs and marks impressed upon our skin and in our minds have deeper meaning and it is from our celebration of them that deeper healing begins. This realisation kick starts a process of regeneration and inner rebirth that will last a lifetime and make us whole again in new and unexpected ways. Using Kintsugi as a metaphor for healing ourselves leads to the awareness that it is entirely possible to create something brilliantly unique and resilient during the restorative process. Kintsugi can be a way to reframe hardships and see them in a new light. It is a much needed reminder that we are not victims of our circumstance and will come out the other side stronger individuals.
Reframe the way you think of experiences to be less black and white:
Make it a priority to always act with kindness towards yourself and others. When Thomas Edison was asked about his approach towards failed attempts preceding his successful invention of the light bulb, he replied that he had not failed and only found ten thousand different ways that don’t work. How powerful is this statement and his gracious way of thinking? The chips, cracks and general wear and tear we experience over a lifetime only go to show that we are making the most of what we’ve been given. Exercise patience and understanding with yourself and the people around you when mistakes are made. Learn from them and move on. The perfect person is nothing more than an illusion. It is a standard of being that is neither realistic or achievable and therefore unnecessary to seek with such fervour. Greeting mistakes with compassion provides nurturing conditions for growth and will ultimately lead to the betterment of all those involved.
View yourself as a work in progress:
Wanting to improve and grow is an admirable trait as long as we take the time to recognise the leaps and bounds we’ve already made. Kintsugi is all about learning and problem solving. It has its’ basis in non linear growth. What it doesn’t have is a place in a perfect world. It maps the struggles, the hurts, losses all that is most difficult to speak of. In doing so, it gilds healing, learning and all triumphs experienced along the way. Kintsugi is a continual process of observing chips and cracks as they occur; being what you need in the moment and for all the time to come. Mending and improving who you are without the intention of changing yourself completely results in a wonderful, ever evolving version of who you are. Someone who is well rounded and entirely unafraid to expose their seams.
Being honest about your flaws will look different in every situation. It could range from posting a photo you believed didn’t represent you best to being realistic about your capabilities and saying no where you aren’t cut out for doing something. Most people know the relief of sharing a revelation and being met with understanding over a shared experience. Our cracks give us character- did you know that some of the Earth’s most stunning landscapes were the product of a natural disaster such as a volcano or earthquake? Each of us is a walking map of our experiences- the good, the bad and the way we choose to respond to what is on our path. Like the seams of a Kintsugi pot, if you only let it, your true self will shine through those areas that you struggle. When we shine by appearing to the world as our highest selves, others feel invited to do the same.