Broken things are beautiful too
Isn’t that just just beautiful? I know you couldn’t sit on that chair but the way it was just sitting amongst the poppies and next to the whitewashed wall and boat just seemed perfect…I couldn’t have arranged it any better.
In a world where beauty is a certain look – botoxed foreheads, trout pout lips, size 4 clothes…it is just worth reminding ourselves of the beauty in imperfection.
The seat reminds me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi . ‘Kintsugi (which means ‘golden joinery’) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platimum’ ‘As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise’. (Wikipedia).
Flaws and imperfections are highlighted as evidence of wear and tear and are part of the idea that nothing is permanent and everything changes. An old therapist friend used to keep her flowers in a vase even after they were dead and shedding petals because, she said, that there was beauty in the decay and dying. As I get older I see that there is. I keep an ugly, bashed table in my front room because it has so many memories and has been sat on by my childhood friends, my friends, my kids.
- What is your attitude to broken and old things?
Some people say that when the pots are broken and repaired it symbolises rebirth and new beginnings, other people say that something that has suffered harm and been damaged becomes more beautiful. Which makes me think of ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller; a play about how suffering and harm can make us purer.
A crucible is a container in which metals or other substances can be heated to high temperature. Alchemy which started in ancient Egypt and China was the pursuit of turning base metals into gold and it this metaphor which Miller uses in his play. The characters start off as ‘base metals’ with flaws and frailties and yet in the crucible of the events in the play they are turned to gold; all their base elements are burned away and they become the best of themselves (a great play!).
Which got me thinking about people who I know. Some of the most amazing people in my life are people who have suffered, who have been broken and have let the hard times be a crucible for their character or soul. Death, divorce, illness, loneliness, separation have been the crucibles of my friends’ lives.
- What have been the crucibles of your life? The hard times?
- How have they changed you?
When my first love died when I was 24 I remember thinking that I could respond in 2 ways. I could either be bitter or mistrusting and never love again or I could learn from it and become wiser.
Not everyone learns from their mistakes and not everyone looks for the learning in hardship or the strengths in suffering. If we blame the world, the other person, our luck or god, we become the victim of events. When we take ownership and reflect on what happens to us, we are mending the cracks with gold. People who do so are wiser and just more radiant.
Which got me thinking about relationships and rows. There are some people who think that children should be shielded from parental rows and clearly where there is abuse and fear this is good advice. However, our kids also need to see that rows are a natural and normal part of human relationships and can be opportunities for new understanding and solutions.
- Did you see your parents row?
- What did you learn from that?
- Do you row in front of your kids?
We can fall out with our partner in many ways but I think you can narrow all rows into 2 categories: those with the intention of harming, destroying, separating and devaluing, and those with the intention of being heard, hearing, understanding, connecting, exploring and solving. The first kind of row is when we smash the pot and then either fail to rebuild it or do so carelessly and incompletely. The second type of argument is when something is cracked or broken so that something new can be created, when gold can be added to the old.
- What kind of rows do you have?
We talk about people ‘breaking down’.
When I hear that people have had a ‘break down’ or time off work with stress I feel excited for them. I know how scary it can be to have your mind go blank and not be able to function, but I also know that from this point of collapse there is a possibility of a new start, a new perspective, some gold. They have the choice to carry on as they were living and be the botched pot, badly mended and fragile. Or they can use the ‘break down’ as an opportunity to create a life which suits them better, which is more authentic and which makes them happier.
Broken things are beautiful.
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