Can something be more beautiful for having been broken? There is an old story of a Japanese military co-mmander in the 15th century who sent his broken Chinese tea bowl back to China to be mended.
When it returned held together with staples, the Ja-panese began to wonder if there was a more aesthetically pleasing way to mend broken pottery.
So the art of kintsugi was born.
Kintsugi involves lacing an adhesive with gold powder, giving the pottery it is used on beautiful gold streaks where the broken pieces are glued back together.
According to a 2009 Washington Post article about an exhibit at the Smithsonian featuring the mended pottery, “Japanese collectors developed such a taste for kintsugi that some were accused of deliberately breaking prized ceramics, just to have them mended in gold.”
Is kintsugi a metaphor for people? Can we be more beautiful for being broken?
Many people (yours truly included) often feel bad about their mistakes and their flaws. They try to cover them up and hide them, thinking that those things make them a less valuable person.
But anyone who has lived long at all has known that flaws and mistakes are simply part of life; if you haven’t made a mistake, you aren’t living.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” President Theodore Roosevelt said. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
That’s why the book of James says to consider it “pure joy when you encounter trials.”
If you’re going in the arena, you will get hurt. But that’s how the world knows you are alive, and not simply existing. That’s kintsugi. That’s beautiful.