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,


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

  1. 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!
    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


  2. 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 😊


          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!


                  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😩
                    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???


  3. 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


  4. …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


    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


      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…


        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


  5. 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.


    Allison xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 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

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