The Art of Imperfection

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer and powdered gold.

It originated when the Emperor shattered his favorite cup. The cup was sent to China for repair but it was returned stapled.

The Emperor employed Japanese artisans to mend the cup aesthetically. They devised a method fusing the shards with lacquer and 24k powdered gold.

Kintsugi is the art of imperfection. ~ The Artisan Series: Kintsugi with Showzi Tzukamoto

We are all broken. No matter what we do to hide our scars or broken places, they are there. They are the price we pay for being human.  Shattered relationships. Unfulfilled dreams. Lost loved ones. Illness. Traumatic experiences. While none of our brokenness is the same, we share in common the experience of brokenness.

Over the past year, we have experienced individual, cultural, governmental, and global brokenness on a scale that has rarely been seen.  

Our scars have never been more apparent.

Some have dealt with this by denying the very brokenness itself, sending their hurt underground to surface in destructive ways. Others recognized the brokenness and have tried to find ways to work within it to create something beautiful. Many fall somewhere in-between, muddling through their brokenness, sometimes cursing it and sometimes grasping glimmers of hope in the midst of it.  We are lonely. We are exhausted. We ache with longing for better days.

The saying “strong in the broken places” originally came from Ernest Hemingway when he wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Since then, it has been used to illustrate the strength that can come out of difficult experiences. Our strength is often in our broken places. I believe it is only through recognizing our brokenness ~ our scars ~ that we can begin to mend them and transform them into something strong, something beautiful

Nearly 20 years ago, I survived a life threatening assault. I was 26 years-old and my life was full of hope and possibility. My attacker came to my home with a gun under the cover of darkness with the intent to kill me and then kill himself.

I was lucky.  I survived what so many others do not.

After I was assaulted, I had many well-meaning friends and family members reach out to me. They expressed their shock, their support, their anger. Some of it was helpful and some of it wasn’t.

One friend, in particular, was especially enraged. In her anger, she said about my attacker, “Look what he did to you! He ruined your life.”

This idea of kintsugi appeals to me because none of our lives are what they might have been. Life happens and, to some extent, is it up to us what we are going to make out of it. We’ve all experienced times when it seems as though some parts of our life have been smashed and lay in shards on the floor.

But it’s not ruined. When we pick up the shards and begin the processes of mending them back together, in time we may find that what is created may be as beautiful (or more beautiful) than what we had before.

My friends, you each are a one of a kind beauty. Imperfectly perfect. Whole and strong.