Our cracks are very real and often painful. How we heal can lead to greater strength and increased value.
I like to keep broken things for a while. Fixing broken stuff feels good because I believe there is always more life inside.
Just yesterday, I threw out an old laptop case. The case was fine but the handle broke off about two years ago. I tried to fix the handle but it required an ugly repair with 2″ screws. Having bolts coming out of a laptop bag would probably bring about uncomfortable questions at the airport, so I decided against it.
The ancient Greeks also hated throwing away their broken stuff. When a piece of pottery was cracked, that meant they couldn’t sell it and profits went down. So they glazed over the pottery with wax and then painted it so it looked whole and valuable. The only way you could see if the pottery had cracks was to hold it up to the light. This where we get our word sincere from, ‘without wax.’
If you are sincere, you let other people see your cracks (Yes, this includes your plumber. Bummer!). For the Greeks, art was a means to cover the cracks, sell things and make money.
The Chinese have a different way of dealing with the flaws. Kintsugi is a 500 year old tradition of repairing cracks with gold. The repair process utilizes resin and gold. When repaired, the piece is more valuable because it is finished with gold. The cracks are not hidden but highlighted; the damage is repaired with gold. Some even went so far as to intentionally damage a piece only to repair it and then sell it at a greater price.
The philosophy behind Kintsugi teaches that unexpected damage can be an opportunity.
Kintsugi reminds us that there is an art to healing. When you and I are willing to become the art, we are more valuable because we are re-created into something new and more beautiful.
Author Anne Lamott tells of a rabbi who taught his people that if they study the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. Someone asked him, “Why on our hearts and not in them?” The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your hearts, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.”
Greek food is not my favorite, but I get myself in trouble when I think like a Greek. I blow it and then I make things worse by adding shame and embarrassment onto my mistakes. Honestly, I have never used wax on my body, but I can remember a time when I used hair gel and expensive clothes to cover what I though were weaknesses in my appearance. The cover and fill approach never helps. It just creates build up and makes everything unstable. Then life happens and the wounds reopen.
Healing and recovery is about honesty with ourselves and with each other. We all have cracks, so cover ups are useless. Being honest is the only way to allow the healing words to fall inside, where the healing can happen.
Right now, my brokenness is very real. Part of me wants a quick fix to cover the brokenness and get on with my life. I know that the quick fix will only lead to more shame and it will not last. It is possible to turn our wounds into gold. Healing requires a generous amount of love, honesty and a willingness to be the art.
When you buy the art, you own it. When you make art, the art will own you.
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Keep it Real
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Lamott, A. (2005). Plan B: Further thoughts on faith. NY: Riverhead Books. P. 73.