The word kintsukuroi came up again recently, thanks in part to a post by Sam Harrison (which now I can't find, sorry). Kintsukuroi (also called kintsugi) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery, but it's something more than that. An important something.
These days, would you even consider a broken ceramic bowl worth repairing, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken? Probably not. No, of course not.
But slow down a minute. Consider the bowl, made by hand with maleable clay and fired to a couple thousand degrees, forever altering its molecular structure. The bowl's creator strived to create perfection.
A handmade object, like a bowl or cup, is revered for the care it took to make it, its beauty, and its purpose. But broken, the object is demoted and loses its honor, so to speak. Repaired, however, can raise the object to a whole new level of appreciation. Not a common idea in western culture.
Some people, more scholarly and patient than I, attribute the origin of the repaired-ceramics artform to story from the mid-1500s. The story goes like this. A great military leader (with a supposedly hot temper) was given a beautiful bowl for an important tea ceremony. Someone dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces (a more complete essay can be found in Flickwerk, The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics, available here). One of the guests spoke up with an improvised poem cleverly linking the name of the giver of the bowl, the style of the bowl, and the five broken pieces, making them all laugh and avoiding the wrath of the hot-headed leader. This specific bowl has since become quite famous, and is considered now an "Important Cultural Property."
This essay goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights." The bowl has become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"
"So it is not simply any mended object that increases in its appreciation but… the gap between the vanity of pristine appearance and the fractured manifestation of mortal fate which deepens its appeal."
In other words, the proof of its fragility and its resilience is what makes it beautiful. Like you.
Don't strive for perfection, just be you—cracks, lines, chips and all. You being you is what makes you beautiful.
Thanks for reading, and good juju to you! =)
p.s. I first published this post in January of 2013, but people keep finding my old blog (even though it's not linked anywhere) and leaving lovely comments, so I thought I'd let it live again here. The concept of kintsukuroi isn't as foreign now as it was five years ago. Consider Sugru's success—it wouldn't exist without people wanting to fix their stuff.
3/26/2019 10:58:33 am
A lovely read, thank you. And thanks for keeping it posted, it "arrived" first on a 2019 google search re: the upcoming movie that bears the name/phrase.
8/31/2020 02:53:42 pm
Ahhh! My new favorite word of all time! Kintsukuori is beautiful even as you speak it because of the meaning behind it! Juju to you as well! 🙏❤️
1/27/2021 08:06:17 am
I first heard the word kintsukuroi in the Nicole Conn film, More Beautiful For Having Been Broken.
4/28/2021 10:39:21 pm
I am so grateful for you sharing this! I did see the movie, You're more beautiful because you are broken" and enjoyed it immensely! I've shared this recently with the nurses I work with. Yhank you so much!
12/14/2021 08:08:17 am
No need to thank me...I literally felt a calmness come over me when that beautiful little boy said that.😇
12/14/2021 07:57:52 am
I watched a love story about two women and a handicapped little boy who had an ability to feel
5/6/2023 09:10:23 am
I, too, first heard the word in the movie. For me, having just decided that at 62, I was transgendered MtF and broken felt a tremendous healing. I'd love to have the word tattooed in Japanese somewhere. Actually I would love a couple tats reflecting my changes. A rainbow Phoenix over my right shoulder for one.
12/21/2021 08:18:57 pm
Beautiful, thank you for your article. I heard the word and had to look it up. And do repair broken bowls and pottery, for they are beautiful.
12/22/2021 10:56:03 am
So glad you enjoyed it!!
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