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The Gold In Our Imperfections

When I first saw a piece of Japanese Kintsugi pottery as an artist in my twenties, I thought of how we humans were just like that piece of pottery. I could not at that point in my life see the gold, only the broken pieces. As time has gone by I have understood how we are not broken, instead, we are all beautiful pieces of art.

Human Beings are all just like that pottery, we are not broken!

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending broken pieces of pottery with gold!

The philosophy behind it is that we are never really broken, kin means golden and tsugi means joinery - so Kintsugi literally means to join with gold. Kintsugi uses gold and resin to create a lacquer and join shards of pottery together to make it whole or completely new.

As I think about this really unusual and difficult year drawing to a close, my thoughts are once again drawn to the concept of Kintsugi. The image above expresses how in the one container there are just shards of pottery that most of us would throw out as irreparable, broken, and of no value. But what if it is more valuable than it was before?

What if we could see ourselves as being more valuable each time we experience something difficult, rather than the thought that we are broken?

"Kintsugi beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of the object’s history, and the broken pot not as something to discard, but as something more precious than it was before.

This idea of celebrating the broken pot is an extension of the idea of wabi-sabi which, in contrast to western values of perfection and symmetry, is an eastern philosophy of living that finds beauty in the damaged or imperfect."

Can we find beauty in our imperfections?

The gold used to join the shards of pottery reminds us of how extraordinarily resilient we are as Human Beings (Capital "B" reminding us that we are Human Beings, not Human Doings.)

Each piece of pottery is like no other since the breaks and cracks vary from piece to piece. As Human Beings, our breaks, our cracks, and our joins vary, and no one is ever alike, our stories our experiences, and our journeys are all as individual as can be. Like the experiences that we thought we may never recover from, or the fear we feel, or the overwhelming sadness and helplessness that we may have felt or still feel as Covid blanketed the world. Or perhaps the grief at our losses that may have had us believing that we couldn't take another step?

Yet the earth, nature and Human Beings are incredible and resilient, and just like the gold in Kintsugi it offers us the opportunity to connect, to lean on our families, friends, or a community so that we can share, listen and grow. So that we can "become" in a new way, even if we take on a completely different form. One of the many gifts that 2020 has brought to attention for many of us is just how valuable all life is, animal, natural and human. It has also brought us the opportunity to really look at our imperfections and acknowledge what is.

What if we could see our cracks and breaks with compassion and empathy and joined our shards deliberately with care and love, celebrating our imperfections and our damaged parts, filling it with gold. Are we not then more valuable than before?

“I said: what about my eyes? He said: Keep them on the road.

I said: What about my passion? He said: Keep it burning.

I said: What about my heart? He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?

I said: Pain and sorrow. He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

― Rumi

In Buddhist dharma Pema Chödrön, in her book "When Things Fall Apart" talks about the concept of "maitri" - "Maitri is developing loving-kindness and an unconditional friendship with ourselves."

She says something that echos the Eastern philosophy of finding beauty in our imperfections, she says that maitri is not about making the pain go away or become a better Human Being, rather it is about letting ideals and concepts fall apart.

If 2020 has taught us anything it is, that we cannot control things, instead it's about letting go of what we cannot control.

Thank you for Being a part of our community, I wish you a wonder-filled 2021!

Warmly Hemla

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