Kintsukuroi:

Suffering and Love

In the presence of great company and while engaging in conversation, I learned a new word, Kintsukuroi (金繕い; Japanese for golden repair). It is pure wisdom, condensed into countable, elegantly-drawn scribbles that refer simultaneously to a philosophy of life and to a type of art. Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

Breakage renders the object its emergent beauty — it is understood as part of the history and identity of an object that is ought to be highlighted as opposed to disguised.

Thinking about it, this philosophy links intimately to attitudes towards hardship and towards true, long-lasting love. Pain and suffering are routes through which one’s character is built and tested. This idea is echoed in religion and ancient philosophies such as stoicism. More recently, Joseph and Linley (2005) proposed an Organismic Valuing Theory of Growth Through Adversity, which highlights the intrinsic ability to adjust positively to threatening events and enhance psychological well-being through the positive and meaningful accommodation of the new trauma-related information. Increased self-knowledge, stronger character, meaning, and other forms of growth are thought by those who suffered and survived to be indispensable outcomes. Indeed, too often we hear “If it hadn’t been for (adversity), I wouldn’t have been the person I am today.” In such utterances, we find will, strength, and beauty, akin to Kintsukuroi, where the mended product is thought to be more precious for having endured the breakage, than the intact one — literally and metaphorically.

We find Kintsukuroi in the idea of true love as well. In Kintsukuroi, the cracks in an object are viewed as simply an event in the life of it, and rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage by replacing it with another object, it is repaired with care in such a way that acknowledges and beautifies the breakage.

Kintsukuroi beacons to the idea of commitment to the beloved, and more so to the acceptance of their flaws and imperfections, which came about by virtue of time and inner conflicts. Most importantly, however, Kintsukuroi invites us to acknowledges that one can help the beloved heal their broken parts into beautiful ornaments that strengthen and nurtures the bond between two people, and helps it stand the test of time.

Whether in suffering or in love — the two constant human affairs — Kintsukuroi tells us that there’s more value in mending what’s broken than in ignoring or replacing it.

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