Think of the last time you accidentally dropped a bowl, cup or vase and it broke into a thousand pieces. You probably took the pieces and threw them away angrily. This would be something unthinkable in Japan, as the Japanese have an alternative they’ve been using for over five centuries: it’s called kintsugi and it literally means golden (“kin”) repair (“tsugi”), as it consists of using a precious metal like liquid gold to join the pieces of a broken pottery item and at the same time enhance the breaks.
This makes every piece become unique, because of the randomness with which ceramics shatters and the irregular patterns formed that are enhanced with the use of metals. In Zen aesthetics, there should be no attempt to disguise the damage, the point is to render the fault-lines beautiful and strong. The precious veins of gold are there to emphasize that breaks have a philosophically-rich merit all of their own.
As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. This Japanese art of kintsugi teaches us that broken objects are not something to hide but to display with pride.
When adversity seems to be bigger than us, we feel broken. Sometimes due to a stroke of bad luck, sometimes due to our too high expectations of ourselves or to the need for something new, for something quick.
This Japanese tradition teaches us that there cannot be resurgence without patience. In kintsugi, the drying process is a key factor for success. The resin takes weeks, even months, to harden, and this is what guarantees its cohesion and durability.
Learning how to value what breaks within us gives us the serenity to value ourselves as we are: broken and new, unique, vulnerable, imperfect, irreplaceable and in constant change.
Pedro Díaz Ridao