In the past month, both my husband and I turned forty. This milestone triggered a lot of navel-gazing on my part as I’ve tried to figure out what forty years on this planet means to me.
Forty isn’t shiny and pretty.
It’s not naive and perfectly laid out. It’s the beginning of wrinkles, the slowing of metabolism and the realisation that beauty seen with the heart is far more stunning than the kind seen with eyes.
While pondering all this, I came across an incredible story and today, I would like to tell it to you:
Five hundred years ago, there lived a powerful Shogun in Japan. He possessed many fine treasures of immense value, among them a prized tea bowl which had been crafted for him by the most skilled ceramicist in the land and fired in the region’s most esteemed kiln. In the days leading up to the tea ceremony, he admired its beautiful lines and textures, so perfectly formed. You can only imagine his despair when, while polishing it, his precious tea bowl slipped out of his hands and fell to the floor.
The shogun gathered up the pieces of his precious tea bowl, distraught. Looking at the shattered remains of his once-perfect bowl, he couldn’t bring himself to throw them away. Surely, if he gave the broken bowl to his personal ceramicist, there was hope for it to be restored to its former glory! He summoned his ceramicist and told him to take the shattered pieces to his studio and put them back together.
The Shogun waited anxiously for the ceramicist to return. Many hours passed and the ceramicist returned with the repaired bowl in his hands. The Shogun was overjoyed! His joy was short-lived, however, because as the bowl was handed to him, he saw that the pieces had been joined together with crude staples. Not only was his bowl now ugly but it was also useless, with holes for the tea to trickle through.
Still, the Shogun couldn’t throw his prized tea bowl away. He decided to call upon the ceramicist who had given him the bowl and ask him to please try to repair the damage he had done. Without hesitation, the ceramicist accepted the task, assuring the Shogun that he would be happy with the result.
Finally, after working for many long days and through sleepless nights, the ceramicist returned to the Shogun with a package in his hands. With tenderness, he placed a silk pouch before the Shogun.
The Shogun nervously untied the silk cords that held the package together and peeled away the soft fabric. He gasped in surprise and awe. Inside the silk pouch was his precious tea bowl, repaired by the master ceramicist. Thee Shogun could not have imagined it possible, but his tea bowl was even more magnificent than it was before he had dropped it.
The ceramicist, it turns out, was not only a talented craftsman but an extremely wise man. Instead of trying to hide the seams where the pieces joined, he had chosen to join the broken pieces together with gold. Instead of pretending the bowl had never broken, he honoured its journey and illustrated its story in veins of gold.
Kintsugi, the art of golden repair, taught the Shogun a very important lesson:
The tea bowl was now not only more valuable, it was in fact made more beautiful for having being broken.
Wouldn’t we be happier if we could look upon ourselves and others, using the Kintsugi philosophy? The way I see it, we have two choices. We can either pick up our broken pieces and join them together carelessly with ugly staples, rendering ourselves both ugly and not good for much or we can decide to treasure who we are and dedicate time and effort to repair ourselves with gold.
I choose to value myself and those I love enough to repair the breaks and chips with gold. I choose to celebrate my imperfections and those of others. I choose to infuse those cracks with the gold they deserve and to let them serve as reminders of obstacles faced and overcome.
Brokenness doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being. Repair is possible, and if we are prepared to believe that we are precious beyond measure and worthy of Kintsugi, we will find that we truly are more worthy and more beautiful for having been broken.
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