Finding relief in art – Kintsugi

Art has an enormous potential. It can calm us down, it can give us hope, and it helps us to better understand ourselves and others. And although my go-to-art is books, there are countless other types of art that inspire. There is one type in particular which can give relief: Kintsugi.

Kintsugi means golden joinery and is a Japanese mending practice. The origin story is said to have started in the 15th century. The priced Chinese tea bowl of a Japanese military commander named Ashikaga Yoshimasa was broken and, so he sent it back to China to get it fixed. Unfortunately, they sent it back stapled together, which looked horrific. That is why he asked Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more beautiful way to fix his bowl. The result led to the art of Kintsugi.

What Kintsugi does is not to hide the cracks and the fact that it is broken, but rather highlight it. Kintsugi finds its inspiration in Buddhist concepts of impermanence and imperfection. It is a lovely counterpoint to our western society which seem to strive for and value only perfection. This holds true for objects as well as for people. If you ask for help, you are considered weak. If you fail, you are not considered smart or capable enough. If you have a certain tick, people label you and put you in a box. What we create are people who are afraid of being who they are. We put on masks and pretend to be someone else. But it is incredibly difficult to sustain such an image. Not only in front of others but also in front of ourselves. The results are manifold. The biggest threat I see is that we stop loving ourselves, because we think we need to be different.

But what if we highlight and praise those imperfections? A person with depression becomes not a “weak” individual but instead a person that is going through a transformation of growth. A person who failed in his or her job is not incapable but is instead someone who gained more wisdom and is therefore more likely to succeed the next time. There is a beautiful quote by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell To Arms:

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places”

I figured that people with scars (scars in a metaphorical sense) and who are open to speak about those scars are way more interesting than people who seem or pretend to be perfect and/or to have figured it all out. The Nerdwriter, a very interesting YouTube channel, once did a video about Kintsugi: The Art of Embracing Damage. In it he said that the pristine is less beautiful than the broken. I like this statement very much. We are all beautiful individuals. Not despite our shortcomings and imperfections, but because of them.

He also said that repair requires transformation. A good example is a broken relationship. It is also a good example, because I can find myself in it, and I can find others in this, as well. I wanted to go back to where it was and what we had. Not acknowledging that something was broken. So, I wanted our relationship to stay pristine and perfect. Well, there is no “perfect” relationship, but I hope you understand how I mean it. What I want to do now is to embrace that change. I accept what has happened I try to transform it into something even more beautiful. I don’t know how our relationship will look like in the future, but I see the potential for a positive transformation resulting in a deeper relationship. What this will mean and when or if this will happen I don’t know. But that is okay. Moreover, it gives me the chance to transform my relationship with myself. Only if I highlight and embrace my flaws, I can start to work on them.

Art can be a powerful tool. Even writing about Kintsugi and reflecting about my past gives me comfort and relief. Today, I want to leave you with another of his statements:

“The shape of us is impossible to see until it is fractured.”

 

Have a wonderful day and take care =)

Stephan

 

PS: Here is another short video about Kintsugi, which I enjoy watching a lot:

 

 

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