On Brokenness: Expansion, Kintsugi, and the Meaning of Life

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The day I signed the papers to place my mother into a skilled nursing facility, I had dinner with a man who, just the day before, had lost his brother in a car accident. He seemed incredibly put together, given the circumstances, and when I asked him about it, he explained that as a former job he had been a grief counselor. He’d been physically on scene at several of those same types of accidents. He had walked family members through their grieving process, and made arrangements by proxy for distraught loved ones who could no longer think straight while staring down the enormity of their loss. He explained that while he allowed himself the day before to grieve and fall apart, today was a different day. Today he was sad, but still able to function. Somehow he was able to compartmentalize his grief and focus on the uncompromising reality of the situation.

Loss takes many forms. It can hit you all at once like a car accident, or be insidious, like the chronic illness that has slowly robbed my mother of her independence for the past 35 years.

Then I came across this:

“In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that post repair were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself. Here lies that radical physical transformation from useless to priceless, from failure to success. All of the fumbling and awkward moments you will go through, all of the failed attempts, all of the near misses, all of the spontaneous curiosity will eventually start to steer you in exactly the right direction.”

~Teresita Fernandez

 

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Original Image found at loveumentary.com/the-art-of-being-broken

Growth can be an exquisite kind of pain. It breaks us into what feels like several pieces, but there are stages to the mending. The Paige Bradley sculpture pictured at the top of this post, is a stunning exploration of how brokenness lets the light shine through. It took her six months to cast the original in wax, which was then broken, then the pieces recast in bronze before being put back together to showcase those beautiful flaws. A work of art is a process. What we spend a lifetime building can be shattered in an afternoon, or so it seems. It takes time to gather the pieces, recast them in a stronger material than the one that was broken, and put the puzzle back together. We will shine for a time with our gaps until the Kintsugi master fills them with gold, lending beauty, structure and strength to edges that no longer line up exactly.

Either way, with the light coming through the cracks or with the gold filling it in, the cracks are beautiful. Golden. Filled with light. Life. Authentic life.

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