We Are All Beautifully Broken
Kintsugi, also know as kintsukuroi, is the Japanese art of repairing or mending broken objects with something precious: gold, silver or platinum for pottery, for example.
This form of art recognizes that the history of an object — yes, even when it was broken in pieces — is part of its life and should not be hidden or disguised. It implies that an object does not become useless when it is broken; repairing it makes its history obvious, but also prolongs the useful life of the piece.
In North America, if we don’t throw the object away, we want the repair to make the object look “like new”, as if nothing had ever happened to it. Our things should look perfect. We live in such abundance that it’s easy to just throw away that broken mug and get a replacement for a few bucks. But in a time when every piece of pottery was a work of art, hand-made and hand-painted, not only was it not easy to get a replacement, but it also might have seemed silly to do so if you could put the piece back together easily.
Kintsugi requires us to appreciate, even embrace, the flaws in things. It tells us that what’s broken can be, and still is, beautiful. It shows us that change is part of life, and that we should accept change without attachment to our idealized version of the past or our perfect desires for the future.
Show Your Brokenness
I’ve been thinking a lot about all the ways humans are broken lately. It started with my admission of being an alcoholic. Arden Leigh also posted (as she does) interesting things on Facebook lately that spurred thoughts about how I use BDSM to heal some of my most primal childhood wounds.
I’ve been admitting to a lot of cracks in my being: addiction, need for attention and emotional validation, my mental illness, my shame at having let myself be gaslighted for so long by my ex.
I find healing in writing about these things. I find community in sharing my challenges and my pain, in letting others see my cracks and broken pieces. My life has broken me into pieces often; I’ve also been slowly chipped away until almost nothing of me remained. I’ve mended, healed and repaired myself as well as I could, every time, to face the world once again… a human being with weaknesses, but a human being nonetheless, no less a human because she lay in pieces for a little while.
In I thought It Was Just Me, Brené Brown writes of how speaking our shame creates connection and community. She considers how North American culture discourages us to really connect by convincing us that we must maintain a façade of perfection at all times. This perfection — physical, emotional, mental — is impossible to maintain: we are not machines, and all of us are flawed. Being able to speak our shame, our hurt, our brokenness, is how we become truly vulnerable and connect at a deeper level with those around us. It’s also how we open the door to healing and growth.
I think that most of all, admitting to brokenness is a little bit like kintsugi: it enables us to see our past and our history not as things to hide but as things that have shaped us and made us who we are. It enables us to see the cracks, and to prepare the lacquer for healing ourselves.
Healing Is Golden
In a kintsugi work, the pieces are mended using a glue that’s filled with precious metals — often more precious than the object itself. Sometimes it’s a crack that goes right through the plate; sometimes it’s a chip on a cup that’s filled up and smoothed out.
There’s an incredibly powerful metaphor about healing in that technique. The act of healing itself — the act of filling up our cracks, of smoothing out our sharp bits — makes us more precious. It changes us, transforms us… but ultimately, what it does is make us more beautiful.
We could ask to remain the same as the day we were born; we could try hide all the ways we have changed, inside and outside, over the years. We are told that women need to remain young forever; that men need to remain strong always. Women have to hide their greying hair and their wrinkles; men have to hide their failures and their weaknesses.
We try to disguise our histories, our past, our cracks and our missing pieces. We gloss over how much people have hurt us. We sweep the wrongs we’ve done to others under the carpet. We avoid the truth because it might hurt. We become passive aggressive because we’re afraid. And every time we look away, the crack opens a little wider, the ceramic erodes a little deeper.
But kintsugi tells us that these very cracks, these very missing pieces are the heart of new beauty. Kintsugi shows us that we can be put back together, that we can honour our past and display it proudly, that we don’t need to hide so much.
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Stop hiding. Open up. Show your cracks. Walk along your wrinkles, run down the paths of your tears.
We are all beautifully broken, beautifully mended in threads of gold.