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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Kintsugi

Most of us have some personal treasure—an object that for aesthetic or sentimental reasons we have a particular affection. One of mine is a very old and delicate porcelain bowl. The cup is finely made, eggshell thin and I handle it rarely and with great care. The other day I was browsing through a magazine and came upon a picture of a similar piece, but this one had been shattered at one time. It had been repaired though by an artisan using a process known as Kintsugi. The pieces had been reassembled as in a jigsaw puzzle but rather than attempting to disguise the cracks they were dramatically accentuated by tendrils of gold mixed with lacquer. Kintsugi translates from the Japanese to Golden Joinery but that barely conveys the philosophy behind this art. Embracing the damage, Kintsugi both repairs and creates a new object that conveys a different and distinct beauty.

Kintsugi offers an object lesson in the power of transformation. A conventional approach to recapture the beauty of the broken object would leave it wanting—a reminder of what had been and would never be again. Kintsugi transforms the object into something new, scarred but in its own way magnificent.

Many of us are like the shattered bowl, we have had or are in the midst of a shattering experience and know what it is to feel the loss of what once was. We can try to move on—to put that loss behind us –to put our lives back into some semblance of what it was—but the faulty repair will only leave us grieving for what cannot be undone. We are in need of Kintsugi; we must rejoin the pieces of our life not by attempting to disguise the brokenness but embracing it. If we are able to do this, we will be unafraid to show our cracks and seams. Instead they will become the story of a life rebuilt that shows both its former perfection and its current glory.

It should be clear that the same philosophy can apply to both our personal lives and the life of our country. Today, we are a shattered bowl, broken by divisions and resentments that daily threaten further destruction. We are in need of Kintsugi. Not so much a healing, that is not realistic; certainly not at once. Rather, we need to embrace our brokenness and concede that any attempt to disguise or pretend otherwise will only leave us unfit. We need to find the glue that can over time rejoin us—the cement of common purpose and points of agreement with which to begin the repair.

First, we must reject anyone, of any ideology or standing that is in the business of assigning blame, furthering the divide, filling the broken voids with hate or anger. We cannot come together around any purpose while any of us tolerate such behavior. Only then can we listen to each other, find those places where we seek the same ends and begin the slow process of crafting a new vision for who we are, a new pride in who we might become. America, we cannot become great again by trying to pretend that we can go back. That time is past—regardless of whether it was as rosy as we may have thought. We can only go forward by creating something different, something that is not what once was but in its own way better—with all its seams and faults visible to the world.

There is much we have to rebuild. I for one still believe that we have within us the power to transform--to make something from our many pieces that will have its own brilliance one day. It begins with you and me. It begins by looking for the places where we can join—not where we are split apart. It begins in quiet determination to reject quick fixes, the plaster of hasty and ill-conceived disguise. It requires genuine and transparent commitment to a new and shared vision.

I carry within me a picture of a country that embraces anew the purpose we once had to provide a place of peace, of equality, and of freedoms –a place that inspired hope and set an example for so many others that they wished only to be a part of it. I believe that it is the same desire for the overwhelming majority of us if we can find a way past the divisions of despair, resentment, ignorance of each other’s true motives and manufactured and marketed appeals to our basest emotions of fear, selfishness or greed. We did this once, however imperfectly and it is within us to do so again.

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