Everything is Broken / A Message of Hope…

“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

          – Leonard Cohen

‘Kintsugi’ (or ‘Kintsukuroi’) is the Japanese art of repairing broken objects with gold.  Once repaired, the objects are considered more beautiful for having been broken.

In today’s world, perhaps more than ever before, we are subject to a continual and interminable bombardment of images touting promises of an almost laughably untenable perfection.  Flawless beauty, endless youth, perfect health, white-teeth beach-body relationships and a six-pack smile (‘yours for only $99 or your money back’) and on, and on, and on.

Deep down we all know (or at least suspect) that there is something inherently disingenuous about these white-light-too-bright visions.  They have the smell of the long con; the feel of the fix; the shallow shark-like sincerity of the salesman’s grin.  The look of the curtain that descends whilst the stage magician is plying his trade in order to obscure the mechanisms which underpin the illusion.  But, even knowing this, trying to navigate thru the world using a map contorted by so ubiquitous a distortion has us tied up in knots and chasing our own tails with the frantic energy of a straitjacketed crack-addicted puppy on espresso.

It is hard, if not impossible, to reconcile what we are presented with, with what we feel to be true, when that truth is being driven unwilling, whipped and bleeding, into a deranged, labyrinthine, and largely pornographic hall of mirrors, in which the exits are at best unclear, and at worst obscured entirely.

When something breaks our usual knee-jerk reaction is either: to get rid of it, or to repair it in whichever way renders the damage as imperceptible as possible.  We see the fractured spider web cracks that remain as lines of weakness; veins of a hidden shame, feeding an exiled, basement-consigned, and ever-growing heart of darkness.

But, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that being damaged and becoming broken as we move through life is not optional, it is inevitable.  The absolute, invariable, and inviolable, price of admission to the human experience.

The first very beautiful thing about the art of Kintsugi, is that it is firmly grounded in the real. It begins from how life really is, and teaches us to welcome both time and change as agents that can enhance, evolve, and ultimately improve the things that they dance with.

The second very beautiful thing about Kintsugi, is that it reframes our conception of beauty; revealing our scars, not as ugly brands of shame, but as hard-won badges of honor; a continually unfolding road map of our own unique journey through time.

And the third and most beautiful thing about Kintsugi, is that it offers us a candle flame of future-hope that burns bright, luminous, and constant, even in our darkest, most wretched, and most broken of present moments.

It is one thing not to mind and to be able to carry on regardless when something breaks, but to be able to see a thing as more beautiful for having been broken, to see this in ourselves, and to see it in others, well, this is a great thing indeed.  Perhaps even the greatest thing.  And if there is a more perfect metaphor for what is: great, true, and ultimately hopeful in the reality of the human condition then, dear reader, I have yet to find it.

I love you and I wish you well,

J


Did you like this?

If you enjoyed this you may also like: my love letter to the mountains of Scotland, my essay about one of the most useful things Theodore Roosevelt ever said, or my recent post on how to find beauty, even in the darkest of places.


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301 Replies to “Everything is Broken / A Message of Hope…”

  1. Each time I read one of your posts, I think that you cannot go any deeper or shine a light any stronger but then you do! What a surprise to read your beautiful exchange with my dear neighbour as she shared the tragic news of our friend’s loss of his home & cats, we do indeed live in a small world. Thank you so much for liking my post and reaching out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou very much for this, I truly appreciate it. We live in a small world indeed, and I am glad to meet you in it.
      Thanks for taking the time to write this, keep up the great work, and have a good one,
      – J

      Like

  2. How many layers need a piece of pottery before get the final golden layer and be beautiful…? If a piece of pottery needs a month to be repair and to get the golden layer, how many time do we need to repair our souls with this tecnique?
    During this month the pottery needs to be repair once and another and another and lots of times … and we too.
    Most people think that the correct way to recover after been broken is to stop thinking in the damage and go on with his lives, pretending it wasn’t a big deal or worst pretending they are strong and they are wasting their time focusing in what causes the damage. Just a few are brave and conscient that need to focus on the pain, the tears, the sadness, even the depression, as part of the process of healing, and we have to feel this for a while (not a month or less) it’s going to take time, and some day are going to remember with out feeling pain, no more. In that process the golden appears in our lives.
    The decision is ours, to forget keeping the pain hidden in our soul, or forgive even it means live the process of suffering and sadness. How can we recognize this? Is very simple, after been broken, thru the time, you decide to don’t remember what happen, or can you remember it with out feeling pain, changing that feeling for love.
    The pottery can’t repair it self, the pottery needs help to be repair, how many are disposed to cross all this process, & how many are disposed to help to the proces when are the one who causes the pain.

    Like

  3. I am an old woman. Your story truly touched my heart. It came at the right moment. My dearest friend just lost his house by fire ( some teenage playing with firecrackers ) than running away to hide when they saw the house on fire. My friend lost everything including his two best furry friends ( two lovely sweet cats ). He is heartbroken . I will show him your blog. I am sure it will bring him some relief.
    You are such a great writer and philosopher. Your voice is also very soothing . So sorry that I can not do a donation just yet. Hopefully can do it soon. Thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello my beautiful friend,
      Thankyou so much for this, it really made me happy in a very deep way. I love that this helped, even if it was in a small way, and I send my condolences for your friend.
      Do not feel bad about the donation, download the thing I made for free, I want you to have it.
      Thankyou again, all the best,
      – J

      Like

      1. Thank you for your kind and quick reply. My friend and i are very touched and thankful. Un Gros Merci. Looking forward to read all of your blog and listen to your music. Sorry I am speacless.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this tradition, especially how it highlights a latent shallowness in our own, and a wastefulness.

    The idea that an object gains value as it ages and becomes distressed isn’t foreign to us, a culture which is in love with vintage and retro. However, the vast majority of us are more than equally happy to stop by Renovation Hardware and buy a brand-spanking-new “antique”, manufactured just last week, as we are to pay for the real thing from an antique seller.

    The idea that something broken gains value, on the other hand, is foreign to us. The idea that highlighting the beauty of its brokenness is entirely alien.

    I came across this tradition via an FB meme a couple years ago. It really made me stop and think then, re-evaluating my perception of beauty.

    Thanks for the lovely reminder… soooo well written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there,
      Thanks for this. I had totally skipped over retro as a talking point, I didn’t even consider it – thanks for bringing it up, it’s a good thought.
      I completely agree with everything you’ve said here, and Thankyou for the compliment about my writing.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmmmn.. Brokenness sometimes makes the soul wander. But then, if we ever find our way back, beauty and grace will make up for time past. You have flawlessly described the heartbeats of a billion or so people in this single post. Really great Sir :)

    Like

  6. Umm… I need to respond, but I think I am temporaily void of speech…*searching frantically for appropriate words*… Well, I just now finished a draft about being broken, and in it, I admit, I was whining a bit. So I set it aside, then noticed you’d been by to visit. Naturally, not recognizing your name, I followed your link. And wound up here. Reading words I absolutely needed to read! Ideas spoken so eloquently that I smiled, and laughed, and felt uplifted…so much so that I forgot for a few minutes that I hurt so much… Synchronicity… Thank you doesn’t say nearly enough, but they’re the only words I have left… :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there, ;-)
      First, thanks for dropping by, and for taking the time to write this. I am really happy that you connected with the piece, your words about it really touched me. The fact that you forgot your pain for a few minutes, is worth everything that I went thru, and put out, in order to write this post.
      Thankyou.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This made me think of wabi sabi (Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection…) that I look to when I need a reminder of the beauty in imperfection. I like your thoughts on it not just being alright to have been broken, but the value in striving to find the inherent beauty that lives there. Thank you for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi again…this is my second comment (just want to make sure you don’t miss the first one)
    So I downloaded it and listened to it, and it does sound so much more meaningful as the spoken word. Your voice is so soothing and I really liked the bonus track; I think I floated away somewhere….. It relaxed me and grounded me. It’s a beautiful sound. I’m glad I could be part of having your first spoken word EP. Thank you again, it is such a hopeful way of looking at life, which we all need, but I really need. You are rocking over there in Scotland!! I think it’s about midnight; so you may be asleep. I’m off to make dinner for myself; no teenager here tonight; just me and my cat…….peace and quiet.
    Good luck with your EP!
    Traci
    Lots of love and hugs:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I am so glad to hear this. When I work on something, I really can’t hear it myself until a little while after, so the feedback is really appreciated.
      That sounds like a good night, you enjoy yourself, and thankyou so much again.
      Be well, and Take Care,
      Big love,
      – J x

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Glad I could help.Anytime, I will be glad to listen to your music or read your amazing writing. Thanks for the inspiration. I can’t get that beautiful image of the bowl with the gold out of my mind..which is a good thing:)
        Ok now I have to go to sleep, and tomorrow I will not be a happy camper. I will listen to my ipod, but it’s hard to hear the music over the damn drill!
        Talk soon, take care. Traci
        Hug

        Like

  9. This is such a beautiful and honest way to describe life. It makes sense bc we always find a way to rebuild after something breaks in our life, and then we end up stronger than before. I like the idea of using gold to fix the cracks. My broken pieces are being filled with gold every time I try something new, or make a new friend, or read a book that speaks to me, or have fun, or when i just recharge with my new warm blanket while I journal or watch tv. Thanks for teaching me this concept I love it. The funny thing is I downloaded the new album by Death Cab for Cutie and it’s called Kintsugi!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea I rock, I know it! I didn’t know there were 12 types of badass..so glad to hear I’m all 12..woo hoo!! And now I know what the title of the album means. I have to tell you I’m laughing bc your comment about me rocking reminds me of a night out with my high school friends. So we are walking down the sidewalk and I’m up ahead, and a car comes by and a guy yells out I think you’re fine, and I say, thanks I think i am too!! We still laugh about it. I’m a little conceited, at least I admit it. It must be all those years of my father constantly saying how beautiful I was…not really a good thing. Anyway it was pretty funny. That’s my digression for this comment. 😜
        I must get my rest bc I have dental work tomorrow. I’m scared af!!! I hate the dentist. I’m getting a bridge, so there will be lots of drilling.😩😡
        Can’t wait to eat lots of jello..not.
        Night..have a good um night day whenever you read this.
        Traci 😊

        Like

          1. Thanks! My therapist says that’s a part of me and to enjoy it. And I do. Recently I was out with my friends and one of them said Traci you look beautiful like you always do, but there was a hint of fuck you in it. It’s like I’m sorry I’m so pretty..not. A guy once asked me how did you get to be so pretty? I said my parents..it’s genetic! It goes all the way back to generations on both sides of my family. We all look younger then we are too. My dad is 78 and doesn’t look it and women still admire him. Sometimes people think I’m so young and I don’t know stuff, and I tell them My brother is quite handsome too; he looks like Tom Cruise, but he’s not a wacko! Hopefully you aren’t into Scientology and I didn’t just insult you. Ok time to get to the gym and then get ready for the horrors…of the drill. I wish he could just knock me out. Have a good day!
            Traci
            xo

            Like

                  1. Hi…funny story about my dentist appointment. The dr gives me the shot in my mouth, mother fucker that hurt! After a few minutes I feel out of it. I felt sleepy and high! I had to walk to the xray machine and I was not walking straight. So I told the nurse how I felt. She told the dr and he asked me to describe how I felt. I said I feel high, it’s a good feeling. He’s like no you’re not supposed to feel that way from local anesthesia. He said it must have crossed over through the blood vessels. He had me smell rubbing alcohol several times. I was like dude just let me enjoy this feeling; -). I’ve never felt that before from local anesthesia. I was so high I started thinking life is great, everything is great…lol
                    The feeling subsided but lasted a while. The rest was torture. Drilling for an hour! 2 hours in the chair😩
                    Ugh…
                    Have a good day 😊
                    Traci 💉

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. You’re funny! All I know is when I go for my second bridge in a few months I want the same exact anesthesia! Apparently there is epinephrine in some locals bc it will keep you numb longer, and I needed that bc he had a lot of drilling to do. If it’s just a cavity they may give you the local without epinephrine. I will be sure to request it. Haha! Then I will have my experience; -) I don’t drink or use drugs, but damn that felt good. The dopamine center in my brain was lit up. The injection site is still hurting.
                      Can I get some to go???

                      Like

  10. I always look forward to your posts. Reminds me of this – Tears and holes in the Soul are mended lovingly with golden thread to make it whole and strong again.
    Thank you for you post x

    Like

  11. …a really insightful post … you have a very old soul, James . I enjoyed reading these lines of yours as I myself often find our times very hard to “digest” when it comes to the pure flood of Information and curious suggestions on how you “should live your life to be perfect – for others or/and for yourself” – and under that conditions finding your own way through that “jungle”. Always a great read, Mr. Readcliffe ;-)
    Take care
    Cristine

    Like

    1. Cristine of the Nemeth!
      I have missed you my dear friend, how are you? How is life? Are you working in New Zealand yet?
      All this and more.
      Thankyou for your very kind words, you are the gorgeous,
      Have a great day now,
      – J xx

      Like

      1. ;-) ha yes, in my heart I will always be a Kiwi, NZ is and will always be my great love.
        I´m doing fine, thanks, and I´ve missed our chats as well though I had to (and still have to) keep myself from most distractions, putting all my thoughts and efforts in further building up my skills ..right now I am in the middle of a very intense course of 3 d visualisation (software Cinema 4D) and Photoshop until mid December, I am busy applying to jobs in the creative industry and of course constantly sculpting and crafting. So I am drowned in work even though I love it – but the hyped TV Show “Outlander” located in gorgeous-wonderful-enchanting Scotland offered a perfect escapism for me. Have you heard about it / seen it? They´ve been filming quite a lot in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I remember in one of our first conversations I pointed out how much I´d like to go horseriding in the Highlands… that wish is going stronger each time I watch that show on DVD. You sure picked a lovely area to live (a real Sassenach, no? ;-) ) and I hope that within the next two years I`ll be able to send you an email saying “Hi James, I´m in Edinburgh, let´s meet for a chat!” ;-) So. I do read your blog regularily but might not comment as often as I´d like…resisting resistance/distractions, you know…
        xx
        Cris

        Like

        1. Hey there,
          You know it! One day NZ will be your home.
          Completely understand about burrowing down and getting into your thing. I will endeavour not to distract too much ;-)
          Everything that you’re doing sounds awesome, I am really glad for you, and to hear that you are making great steps forward.
          My girlfriend loves those books, but I haven’t read them myself. Yes, a lot of my friends have been to watch the filming of them.
          If you send me that email, I would totally do it.
          Keep being your bad self ;-) And More Power to you.
          – J x

          Like

  12. Oh beloved, to be broken. Such a crushingly exquisite thing.

    Mocked, as you so rightly say, too often in our world by the blinding and the gloss.

    You have taken the stripped, the bloodied, the wretched, and made it golden with your insights: devastatingly raw in your molten words (written and spoken) and brutally played out inside the wrenching texture of your ecstatic music.

    I love all the pieces of your piece, sir James. I love them for their mercy. As always, you take ‘well-done’ and kill it again and again that it may be fired, raised up and stretched.

    Bravo for your clever, your cunning, your measure and your muscle. They are as gentle as they are driving.

    Timely, too, as I’ve been sitting with a broken thing of late and unfolding in the center of it. Maybe it’s the space between the splintered wreck and the liquid golden healing? Maybe . . .

    The space you reference – and I fully feel you – where the masses would try to convince you you never need go (so long as you move/spend stealth enough), let alone set up camp and stay the frigid night. We seem not to realize that when we close our eyes to the black, we sacrifice the stars.

    Thank you for inviting us into the ache, my sweet, sweet friend, in the way only you can.

    Warmest and deepest to you, love.

    Stay,

    Allison xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Absolutely gold-filling words for my heart.Cracks on a soul/heart are as inevitable as fingerprints in our life, very unique for a personal journey. P.S. By the way in my culture we break a glass for a good luck sometimes! x

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is beautiful. I knew about kintsugi but to think about it in more human terms, how people can be broken but that can make them all the more beautiful is so inspiring and uplifting.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am often amazed how certain writings or spoken words can find their way to us at a time when we most need the message they carry. The acceptance of our brokenness and realizing the depth of value it can bring is a personally enlightening experience. Too often I, as have many others, try denying those flaws out of shame- but this only creates a destructive cycle. Anyway, in my roundabout way I’m saying the words you’ve written came to me in a very timely fashion. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I love your passion James … your insights, conviction and your poetic language.

    This article was so timely as I revealed some things in a publication that is soon going to print and thought “shite, have I exposed myself too much?”

    This was going through my mind this morning and then this blog appeared. I’m at peace now with my “vulnerability hangover”.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou so much for this – I am really glad that you liked it, and your comment is very kind.
      A vulnerability hangover, can be a beautiful thing and can often indicate great writing.
      Really well done. And thanks for writing to me,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

  17. James, I was so happy to find you and this lovely and love-filled post and blog. I have long loved the wabi-sabi tradition, and have often reflected on my own scars as the beautiful markers of healing that they are. I think you might enjoy this piece I wrote when in the throes of a scar, and how the pain which had become all-consuming helped me find beauty in the moment. From one musician/seeker to another;) – Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am really glad that you liked it. Thankyou for taking the time to write and tell me.
      I loved your post, very beautiful, very clear, thankyou for the point.
      From one musician to another,
      Have a great night,
      – J x

      Like

  18. Beautiful, James. So very true and open and honest.
    You have such a gentle voice, it suits such a message very well. (A random side-note, your voice strangely reminds me of Jude Law somewhat ?)
    Eastern philosophy is so wonderful and profound, such beautiful metaphors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jude Law!? Really?
      I have to say that this is, quite honestly, the first time that my voice has been compared to Jude Law’s.
      You are a groundbreaker.
      I am glad for you tho, I read your email, and I am.
      You are beautiful, you know it!
      – J x

      Like

  19. The beauty in seeing all things as whole is part of the journey to be love. To know you are complete and whole despite the journey traveled is a beautiful gift to receive and share. The cracks only defining the road traveled to wholeness thru continuous incarnations to release your true power in present time offering more now than never cracked or traveled at all. The awareness shared will open doors to inspire many on the same road to wholeness. Sharing appreciation and gratitude for including all in the journey. Continue blessings as you share your gifts with the world.

    In Love and Light

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou very much for this beautiful comment and for adding your point of view to the world-dirge.
      It means a lot to me that you took the time to both, read my post, and to write this. Thankyou.
      Hope your day is proceeding soundly,
      Best of luck to you,
      – J

      Like

  20. Thank you so much for liking my post and for this truly inspired post of yours. I learned about this tradition along the course of my recovery, but your way of writing about it stirs up little sparks in my heart! I believe that it is only in finding ourselves “broken” that we learn how to love and to be truly alive. Thank you for reminding me of this message!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are most welcome for both of these things, I am glad to be of service.
      And thankyou so much for stopping by and taking the time to write to me – I really appreciate it.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Like

  21. Oh, such an interesting post. That bowl is so beautiful. I love the idea thst something mended can be more beautiful than before the break. And that the ‘flaw’ is emphasised rather than hidden. I have a habit of sewing very obvious little patches on stains or holes in my clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you already knew! ;-)
      Really glad that you liked the post – Thankyou so much for taking the time to write back to me as well, I really appreciate it.
      Your clothes sound cool.
      Have a great day,
      – J

      Like

  22. As an active provider to my recovering community (drugs and alcohol) I would appreciate your blessing that I may share this message for those who believe that once broken they can never be of value again.
    The message is: the recovering addictive personality is more beautiful and of more value for having been broken. Their message is : recovery is possible if you look past the ubiquitous distortions of the commercial world and only consider the value of the mended soul.
    Thanks for all of the big words, they only serve to embellish a spot on message.
    Love, hugs and blessings … ME

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You absolutely have my blessing for this. If there is any way you can put this into service for people, please do it.
      I couldn’t agree with you more about the message, you heard it loud and clear.
      You are most welcome, I am really glad you liked it.
      Be well, I wish you the best,
      – J

      Like

  23. This post, these words, this kind of thinking helped break a spell.

    Several years ago, I read an essay in which a woman writer described anger. Her favorite coffee mug suffered a crack and it made her so mad that she took a hammer to the ceramic object and ‘finished it off.’ There was no gold in her world to be found–nothing to repair the feeling she had when the flaw appeared in a favored item–only anger, and a hammer, to enhance the loss.

    I’ve been haunted by that story. I am no longer. May there be gold for all–the kind of gold that patches not just cracks, but anger.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I absolutely adore this story. Thankyou so much for taking the time to share this with me – I really appreciate it.
      I don’t know why, but your comment made me smile.
      Have a great day, I wish you the best,
      – J

      Like

    1. Hey there Gail,
      Thankyou so much, both for your interest, for sharing the post, and for your generosity.
      Just press the ‘download’ link, and you will be asked to input the amount you wish to donate.
      Thanks again, have a good one,
      – J

      Like

  24. I am really surprised to understand the way you observe and stretch the true meaning out of it…I really loved it. No doubt ur words act as beaconhouse to lit the darkness around us and u r enough to drag todays mind towards enlightened world

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Beautiful. And true. We do not grow when life is hunky dory (unless listening to Bowie–sorry I couldn’t resist). The muscle of the heart-mind, know as Xin Yi (Chinese), is our intention. The intention to see light when there is loss is truly courage. It is also the highest Spiritual path.
    ~ Thank you James!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The most beautiful people I know have been broken the most times. I think that’s the only way their authentic selves can so vibrantly shine through. I love, love, love people who get this. Thank you for not only getting it but writing so heartwrenchingly about it. X

    Liked by 1 person

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