In a world that often celebrates perfection and seamless beauty, the Japanese art of kintsugi teaches us to embrace our flaws and transform them into something remarkable. Kintsugi, or the “golden joinery,” is a traditional Japanese method of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with liquid or powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This technique not only mends the object but also elevates it, highlighting its historical journey and imperfections, making them a vital part of its story. Just as the breakage and repair of a precious bowl or cup add value to the object, the awareness and acceptance of our own “broken parts” give our already precious selves additional value.
The History of Kintsugi
Kintsugi traces its origins back to the late 15th century in Japan. The legend goes that a shogun broke his favorite tea bowl. After it was clumsily repaired, he was displeased with the unsightly staples that held it together. Seeking a better solution, artisans developed kintsugi, which allowed them to mend the pottery while making the broken seams a work of art.
“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
The Philosophy of Kintsugi
Kintsugi is not just about fixing broken objects; it embodies a profound philosophy. It teaches us to embrace imperfection and acknowledge the beauty in the scars of life. Here are some core principles of Kintsugi:
Kintsugi is closely tied to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the beauty of impermanence, transience, and imperfection. Throughout life, we may encounter unreasonable expectations. These expectations may come from ourselves or from others, and cause us to strive for unattainable perfection. In contrast, wabi-sabi reminds us that our flaws are integral to our existence. Perhaps even a place of beauty as we learn to lean in and embrace all our parts.
This Japanese term encapsulates the idea of “waste nothing.” Kintsugi embodies the notion that rather than discarding a broken object, we should repair it and give it new life. This approach resonates with environmental sustainability and the idea of cherishing what we have. It also reminds us that we can give ourselves new life through a process of healing.
The Kintsugi Process
The Kintsugi process is both art and craftsmanship. It involves meticulous steps to repair and elevate the damaged pottery. The process involves collecting and preparing the broken pieces of the pottery, cleaning and polishing the edges of the broken fragments, mixing lacquer with powdered precious metals, joining the pieces, allowing them to dry, and smoothing the surface with polishing stones. Intricate patterns and designs can be created with multiple layers of lacquer and metals. The process takes focus and patience, much like our own healing processes.
“Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing.” – Linda Hogan
Lessons from Kintsugi
Kintsugi’s philosophy and its intricate process of repairing broken pottery hold profound parallels with human healing, both physical and emotional. The art of Kintsugi offers valuable insights into how we can better understand and approach our own restorative journey:
Just as Kintsugi doesn’t hide the cracks but rather highlights them with precious metals, human healing begins with acknowledging our imperfections. It’s about recognizing that we all carry emotional and physical scars from our life experiences, which are part of our own unique story.
The vulnerability inherent in displaying one’s scars is a significant aspect of Kintsugi and a crucial component of human healing. Sharing our experiences, whether they’re emotional wounds or physical injuries, can foster empathy, compassion, support, and connection. By allowing our authentic selves to be seen, we create opportunities for emotional bonding, resonance, and growth in our relationships.
Transforming Pain into Beauty
Kintsugi takes something broken and transforms it into something beautiful. Similarly, the healing process involves awareness and acceptance that indeed we are NOT broken, simply metamorphosing our pain and suffering into wisdom, resilience, and personal growth. Through our experiences we recognize what I like to call our inner gold, our inner Kintsugi, which enables us to become more compassionate, understanding, and stronger individuals.
Resilience and Repair
Kintsugi emphasizes the importance of patience and effort in the repair process. Similarly, human healing often requires time and persistence. Whether it’s recovering from physical injuries or emotional trauma, the journey may be challenging, but with self-compassion, the broken pieces can be mended.
Creating Something More Beautiful
Kintsugi doesn’t just restore the object; it enhances its beauty. Likewise, the healing process can lead to a version of ourselves that is stronger and more beautiful in its own way. The scars, physical or emotional, become a part of our unique inner mosaic. We are often inspired by people who overcome mistakes and adversity. We can find this inspiration in our own journeys as well and honor our inner landscape of mosaic pieces that come together to create a stronger whole.
Sustainability and Resourcefulness
The Kintsugi philosophy aligns with sustainability by promoting the repair and reuse of damaged objects. In human healing, resourcefulness and sustainability can be metaphorical. Rather than discarding or neglecting our pain, we can find ways to hold our own pain with compassion, repair and grow from it, reducing the emotional “waste.”
Kintsugi offers an opportunity to learn from Japanese cultural wisdom. In the same way, exploring various healing and coping methods from our own as well as different cultures can provide valuable insights into handling adversity and promoting well-being.
“Take your broken heart, make it into art.” – Carrie Fisher
Kintsugi is more than an art form; it is a philosophy that encourages us to find beauty in imperfection, embrace the scars that make us unique, and see the potential for transformation in our struggles. It is a reminder that life’s broken pieces can be mended and even elevated, creating something more beautiful and valuable than before. So, the next time you encounter a crack or break in your life, remember the art of kintsugi and the wisdom it imparts. Remember your inner gold.