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Posted by Philip on 10 July 2016, 9:43 am in , , , ,

Kintsugi and the art of being uniquely flawed

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. (Wikipedia)

As a philosophy kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.

Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of "no mind" (mushin) which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.

"Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself."

— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

In a recent therapy/supervision session, I achieved a powerful sense of myself as a piece of pottery repaired by kintsugi. A flawed, broken being, but with an ability to embrace these vulnerabilities.

Not only did I see how to embrace the flaws, but also how to see them as strengths and beauty, unapologetic impacts on who I am, how I think and how I uniquely interact with the world.

So much therapy and counselling focuses on healing and removing flaws in our lives. I realised, in this session, that there have been issues in my life, such as feeling detached from meaning and purpose, that keep recurring. Similarly, anxiety and depressing. addiction and lonliness appear, leave and return. They are the broken parts, the bits I've been trying to fix, but in a way that hides them from others.

But through the kintsugi lens, they are parts that define me and I'm tired of trying to hide them. Rather, I want to mend them, each time they recur, but in a way that honours them as defining events in my life.

There is so much pressure to be perfect in society and even more judgement for being imperfect. The philosophy of kintsugi embraces our imperfections, allows us to be detached from and accepting of change, good and bad, in our lives.

Most importantly, by highlighting our flaws and vulnerabilities rather than hiding them, we can be truly authentic in the knowledge that, no matter the damage that occurs in our lives, we are stronger, more beautiful, resilient and uniquely imperfect.

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