“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,
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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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