I recently found myself inspired by a bit of broken pottery. That pottery made me think about the value we place on inanimate objects. Who knows why a certain object has a special attractiveness to us. We see it, we like it, we want it. And before we buy it, we look for flaws. If we find any, we must then decide whether to turn our heads and walk away or to love it flaws and all. But what is beauty, if not in the eye of the beholder?
I remember once seeing a nature show about the mating rituals of birds. There was a male bird who collected blue objects. He had bits of things, all in blue. He had paper, string, flowers and a shiny piece of broken blue glass all lined up at his ground nest in hopes of attracting a female. It was hilarious to watch him dance around and display his blue objet d’art, paying particular attention to his piece de resistance, the bit of broken blue glass. She was not impressed, but he was unaffected by the rebuff, choosing to wait for the one who loved his blue things as much as he.
Yes, somewhere, in the world of humans, that blue glass broke and was discarded. But does everything that’s broken have to be discarded or rendered less than? There is a Japanese word, kintsukuroi. It means, “to repair with gold,” the art of repairing with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is beautiful for having been broken.” It is loved with the flaw. The flawed is not valueless, it’s priceless. When I learned of this, I began to question how I approached disappointments in life, especially when it comes to beloved broken items like pottery and glass, and more importantly, regarding my life. But first let me tell you about my art.
Many years ago, I found a lamp at a thrift store. It was dirty with a damaged shade, but I saw through the dirt that underneath was a beautiful glass pitcher embossed with gold with a hand blown handle. I bought it , dismantled it, cleaned it, and suddenly I had an extraordinarily beautiful piece that glistened when the sun shone on it! I admired everyday. It was one of my favorite pieces. Well, one day, we had a small kitchen fire in our house and a lot of things were smoked damaged and had to be thrown away, but the glass things could be cleaned, so my pitcher was saved! However, when the restoration company was doing their work, the front door was open with the screen door in and the storm door glass was against the opened door. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew into the house, knocking the storm door glass down taking out the beautiful pitcher! It broke into many pieces. I was heartbroken. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it away! Where would I ever find another one? So I glued it. But it was not the same. The sparkle was gone. So I went to the craft store and bought all the gold craft items that I could find, and set to making it into an art piece, my version of kintsukuroi. I get just as many complements, if not more on it now, as I did before it was broken. It is flawed, yes, but it serves as a reminder that life can still be beautiful in spite of it’s flaws and disappointments. In fact, is not the way in which we deal with life’s blows cause us to become even more beautiful to those around us? The woman, who goes through a mastectomy, the girl on dialysis, the man who survives multiple operations, the widow and the beleaguered caregiver. Are they not more endearing to their loved ones for their courage, determination and indomitable spirit?
I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. I suffer from inner ear damage that makes life difficult. I have vision problems and segmental Dystonia. For many years, I saw my life as broken, and it is, it will never be the same. But, as painful as my reality is, and as great the degree of my loss, I am still able to write. I am not making a living as a writer, but I am published and some people enjoy reading my stories. This is my kintsukuroi, writing in spite of pain and adversity. I see it as a thing of beauty in spite of being flawed.
Also, I think of myself as that little bird with the shiny blue piece of broken glass. He didn’t mind that it was rejected, he loved it because it was blue. It made him happy to look at it, to own it, to display it, hoping that one day, the right one would come along and love it. And if no one does, that’s okay too. He had has little blue art collection to inspire him. Broken can still be beautiful. It’s all how you look at it.