(n.) (v.phr.) “To repair with gold” – the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
So today, I read about something beautifully profound and I’ll really like to share this with you.
Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repairing pottery but it’s something more than that, something more profound. Permit me to digress a little
When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay. The bowl is formed to the potter’s liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees. Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art. At this point, the porter sits back and thinks to himself “Perfect”
Now, let’s say this perfect bowl broke. Imagine the potter’s reaction. This is something he has spent hours dreaming and creating. Energy spent and now lost, perfection messed up, everything suddenly feels like its in ruins. Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken? Of course not! We would most likely demote and dishonor it in hurt and frustration, throwing it out in the trash.
But you see the beautiful thing about these Japanese potters, they would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation. Isn’t this just amazing?
In ancient Japanese history, the story and origin is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day during a gathering, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces. Everyone paused, fearing for the young man as the military leader was known to possess a quick, harsh temper. Then one of the guests improvised a comic poem about the incident, provoking laughter all around and restoring the leader to good spirits.
As the poem expresses, mended ceramics convey simultaneously a sense of rupture and of continuity. That one moment in which the incident occurred is forever captured in the lines and fields of gold mending. It is repaired with a material of much higher value and yet the traces remain.
This story goes on to say that instead of the break diminishing [the bowl’s] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights. The bowl has become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped because now it is still being displayed in museums as a special artifact years after the incident.
The breaking is not something to hide. It does not mean that the work of art is ruined or without value because it is different than what was planned. Kintsukuroi is a way of living that embraces every flaw and imperfection. Every crack is part of the history of the object and it becomes more beautiful, precisely because it had been broken.
From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished for generations. In Japan, cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold. The Japanese believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful. Sometimes, when everything we valued and built up and cared for over the years falls to pieces, we fall apart and shut down but the truth is we are better able to see opportunities and possibilities that would have never presented themselves had life not been torn to rags. Sometimes we’re standing and staring in the face of broken promises and broken dreams, eye-to-bloodshot-eye with our most assiduous fears and it feels like our world is ending. I won’t go into the process involved in filling the cracks with gold and how tedious and long it is but just know it is something motivated by love and whatever you’re feeling right now is a part of the process.
It’s the Japanese art of repaired pottery.
It’s also a reminder that all those cracks, lines, chips and breaks in your life are what makes you beautiful and far more valuable even beyond your wildest imaginations. It’s what makes you a masterpiece.
I hope this encourages your heart. It’ll be okay, you’ll be fine – eventually. Pay attention to the gold traces. This is not the end. Someone very powerful sits on his throne and has dedicated his entire existence to loving you. He’s rooting for you.
(If you need to talk, you know how to reach me. Send me an email or reach out on any of my social media pages. I’m more than happy to listen)