Thursday, March 14, 2013

Box of Broken Things

When I stand before thee at the day's end thou shalt see my wounds and also my healing.
-Rabindranath Tagore

My friend Adrienne lives in a modest sized historic home. Anyone who has lived in an old house knows there is almost no closet space. Adrienne mentioned that a home organizer tried to throw out a box of broken things once. My friend was horrified at the suggestion. What Adrienne failed to mention was that she hired that home organizer more than thirteen years ago when she was pregnant with her second child. She still has the box and yes, everything is still broken.

It pains me every time I look inside of it.” Adrienne admitted.

Her grandmother’s teacup: smashed. Her oldest son’s I love mom home made present:  falling apart. Her father’s boyhood art project: cracked. A treasured crystal candlestick: jagged. An antique silver spoon: bent. Listening to Adrienne go through the inventory of her precious things, I could hear regret in her voice. I detected a longing for the days when things were still whole. Maybe a bit of guilt that she had not taken the time to make repairs.

Some of the words in the modern definition of sincerity are wholeness and purity. The ancient definition of the word sincerity derives its roots from sine =without and cera= wax. The Greeks and Romans are said to have covered damaged sculptures in wax to hide flaws. If something was deemed sincere, it meant it was sound, honest and perfect or without concealement . Ever since, westerners have been cursed with this false notion that things have to be pure and perfect to be sincere or authentic.

The Japanese, by comparison, mend broken objects with resin mixed with gold to make the cracks even more noticeable. The technique is called kintsugi. The belief is something that has survived damage is more beautiful. It is more valuable because it has a history. Instead of the word sincere, the Japanese word is wabi-sabi. It means: to nurture all that is authentic by acknowledging that: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.

Try as I might, I may not ever be able to fully integrate those beliefs about my broken parts. Judging my friend’s sad sentimentality about her box, I am not sure she will either. But I was encouraged by her hopefulness as she put everything back inside.
“I could fix it someday.” Adrienne said.

Do you hang on to things that are broken? If so, do you conceal them or can you see beauty in the flaws?

For today's "sky's the limit" on what you can learn: More about Kintsugi: It is said a Shogun in the 15th century sent a damaged chinese bowl to China for repairs. It came back with ugly staples, prompting the Japanese shogun to find a craftsmen to do something better. The practice, also known as gold joinery, has become such an art form that collectors are sometimes accused of intentionally breaking pottery so it can be repaired with gold seams.

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