Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that past mistakes have consequences and what we have been and done does not just disappear because of good intentions now. [Sometimes it takes a long time to get back to pono.]
It seems to be a given. We’re clumsy oafs, us humans. Often we break things without meaning to. Our words and our actions break hearts and shatter lives – our own and those of the ones we love.
Other times, life takes its toll. We get lost, we fall down and we lose our way. Bits of ourselves get lost somehow.
On the other hand, broken can become stronger and more beautiful. It does take time. It does take care. It takes patience and gentleness. It is not likely to be an easy fix.
One metaphor that points the way to repairing brokenness beautifully can be found in a Japanese pottery technique called “kintsugi” or gold-joinery.
The following video, “When Mending Becomes Art” published by Kintsugisouke, is an introduction to this ancient art form.
AN OLD WAY TO REPAIR POTS
“Kintsugi” is an old way of repairing broken pottery developed by the Japanese using lacquer or some other resin laced with pulverized gold. The story goes that a samurai broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it off to China to be repaired. When it came back there were ugly metal staples all over the cup firmly holding the cracked bits together. This was unsatisfactory.
The cup was sent to another artisan, an old Japanese goldsmith, who worked on perfecting a new way to heal the broken cup. He made each crack in the cup a thing of beauty. He honored and emphasized every flaw. And the gold in the cracks caught the light and threw it back each time the old warrior drank his tea.
I got to thinking about kintsugi and about all the ways we humans get broken. I ended up writing a poem about it. Here it is:
‘Kay. Try this:
Take this clay tea bowl.
Now throw it on the ground…HARD!
Go for it!
Look at those clay bits scattered all about.
Is it still a bowl, do you think?
Sure doesn’t look like it, huh?
Now, say “sorry” to it.
Did it go back to the way it was before?
Put some SINCERITY into it.
LEAN on that remorse.
Say, “PLEASE forgive me.”
Say, “I didn’t mean it.”
Say, “It was an accident.”
Try pulling out the big guns.
Say, “I LOVE you!”
Say it from the heart.
Did all that saying work?
Not really, huh?
Broken’s broken, ain’t it?
And words don’t do a thing.
The pieces are still lying there,
Looking all forlorn.
They will not hold together.
The integrity is gone.
When you try to make them fit,
Try to press them into place,
The pieces fall apart.
Try pouring some tea
On all those broken bits
And the wet just runs down
All over your feet.
Here’s some sticky resin stuff.
And, look at this:
There’s this shiny golden powder sitting there,
Right next to you.
Let’s try something.
Here, take this brush.
Now pour a dollop of that goopy stuff on this plate.
Swirl it around with the brush.
Now mix in some of that powder.
Just stir it right on in.
Slowly, slowly, slowly.
Mix it all up.
No lumps, no bumps.
Mix it all up smooth.
Now, grab up one clay piece
And turn it so the broken edge faces up.
Brush the glop – all golden now – along that ragged edge.
Carefully, carefully…no slopping allowed.
Then grab up a second clay bit
And fit together the edges.
Resin oozes out of the crack, huh?
Run your brush along that golden bleeding line
Along the front, along the back.
Make it smooth and smoother.
Gently now, like a dream.
Now…repeat, repeat, repeat.
You will mess it up, you know.
You’ll get impatient and you’ll push too hard.
The glop will spread and splotch
And you’ll have to start it over.
Again, again, again.
You’ll have to keep on mixing,
keep on brushing,
keep on smoothing,
On and on and on
Until each clay edge is touching a matching other
And every crack glimmers golden.
There’s one piece missing.
(It probably got pulverized,
Or maybe it got lost.)
Glop some of the gloop into that empty
And smooth, smooth, smooth it on out
Over the edges, front, then back.
Now, set it aside.
It’ll dry in the bye-and-bye.
Oh! Will you look at that!
The bowl is resurrected,
But it really is NOT the same.
Now it’s something other.
Now it’s something more.
It gleams now in all the broken places.
Gold shines in all its cracks.
When you pour some tea in it
None of the wet runs out.
And when you hold what once-was-broken,
Healed now after all your gentle care,
Maybe then you will understand:
Fixing what you break
Is not supposed to be easy,
And words alone won’t get you there.
By Netta Kanoho
The following video about Kintsugi and the philosophy behind it was published by The School of Life in collaboration with Mad Adam Films and is part of a weekly series of offerings.
The School of Life is both a YouTube channel and a real-life school for adults that focuses on how to live wisely and well. They are bent on asking the important life-questions that you never got to ask in regular school. There are ten physical hubs in cities around the world including London, Melbourne, Istanbul, Antwerp, and Seoul.
Picture credit: Sunrise Over Maui by April Schultz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
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