I recently remembered something I'd read about Japanese pottery, so for the past week, I've had the Wikipedia page up on my desktop waiting to write about it.
It's a process called Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi and it's basically a technique of pottery repair that uses lacquer dusted with gold, silver or platinum powder. Philosophically, instead of trying to make a repaired break invisible or unnoticeable, the practice highlights the breakage, incorporating it into the design, history and integrity of the piece.
As an allegory for our own personal journeys, it has many implications. The first is that, just because we're broken doesn't mean we're disposable or lacking in value. The vessel still holds tea, but now it is laced with gold. That makes it even more valuable. So for those who are recovering from addiction, the death of a spouse or child, a divorce or any other type of bad break, it's not the end. It may be AN end, but the healing of those breaks ushers in a new, more compelling form. With all we've lost, we have also gained. And that's nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about or to push aside. Triumph over adversity expands the soul.
Another allegory is in this ego-driven need we have to appear to be something we're not. We all have a public face and that face is rarely exactly like our private face. I think the farther we travel down our spiritual paths, the more our public and private faces merge. But everyone reading knows someone who either discards their broken parts or denies they were ever broken. Maybe they act perfect all the time or maybe they reinvent themselves each time a chip appears or maybe they're just in denial about all the visible cracks.
But just as the tea bowl above illustrates, the breaks and cracks and splits make a much more interesting story than if the bowl had never broken. And let's face it, we're all broken. And we all have gifts and wisdom we bring from those breaks. But when someone denies having any flaws, they become unrelatable. Boring. Homogenized. And while it always surprises me how many people feel more comfortable in the presence of unrelatable, boring and homogenized, spiritually speaking, that's not why we're here.
We're here to break and repair and break and repair. Our mended cracks are the battle scars of being human. In some ways, you could say it's how we know we ARE human. It's how we know we're on the right path. In my opinion, the unscarred vessel is one that really isn't making any progress...not because they haven't had bad breaks, because they have. But because they're so busy covering up their breaks, they can't incorporate them into who they are. They haven't embraced the repair and used it to strengthen the overall integrity of their vessel. So, like any poorly repaired vessel, it breaks again in the same place and they fix it again in the same place. They can never move forward.
So I've been thinking about the gilded cracks and the celebration of our battle scars. It reminds me of this little scar I have beneath my eye from some stitches I got when I was six. I remember my mother commenting on whether or not I'd be scarred for life, worried if I would need plastic surgery. That scar is still visible on my face and it has never caused me social discomfort because I always liked it. I'm sure I showed it off quite a bit when I was younger. "This is what I have survived and I'm proud of it." Besides, if a scar can be cute, it's a cute scar.
But then there are scars that bother me more. I spend a lot of time worrying about the inevitable "scars" that will come when I finally lose weight, for example...the loose skin and new wrinkles and whatnot. And I think that's why Kintsugi has been on my mind. We shouldn't even allow the FEAR of scars to hold us back, especially not when we know how much more beautiful and stronger they eventually make us.