The Japanese art of kintsugi is the repair of broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum. The philosophy behind kintsugi is a reverence for imperfection; embracing the flaws and finding beauty in them as a symbol of resilience.
What would happen if we had the capacity to look at ourselves in the same way kintsugi artists are able to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair instead of hiding it. What of we wore our scars with pride to display the sheer beauty of our ability to heal. I know I am at my most phenomenal when I have been able to look back at what I’ve survived and spoken of the scars that I’ve been left with. I have cuts on my heart from loves lost. I have scar tissue on my lungs from breathing in the intoxicating and virulent lies of those I trusted. My eardrums are chafed from the harsh words of others. Every part of me is marked up from experiences I have lived to see the other side of, and “still I rise.”
I will share with you the stories of my past – I will tell you how my divorce made me want to know the whole of myself so that I could share a better me with the world. I will open my chest and pull out my heart, pointing out the childhood that burned the edges with a coldness and distance that a child shouldn’t have to experience from their parent. I’ll show it all to you, and then I’ll point out the flecks of gold that glimmer in each of the scars, reminding us that my survival and resilience is stunning.
I would ask you to show me your scars, and we would see together how those cracks have been filled in by something more beautiful than you could ever know. To survive pain and trauma is as magical as our very existence and we should celebrate it every moment of every day.
Wabi-Sabi is another, similar, Japanese art form that centers on an acceptance of transience and imperfection, which isn’t at all what we are taught to appreciate in the Western world. Here, we are taught to hide our physical scars and invisible wounds. We are asked to put them away as if we should be ashamed of them; that we should judge them as unsightly. What we teach one another is that sharing those things makes others uncomfortable, and somehow we view it as our responsibility to put them away to make other people feel less afraid. What of we take a cue from the East and acknowledge them, admire the beauty they have imbued in us and accept that there is greatness in our imperfections. When we take control over our past and the damage it has done to us, we find another source of strength and ability to relieve the past and those that hurt us from the power they have over us. It’s as if we should be able to say – I have been hurt, I have survived and there is nothing left for you here. These scars show my phenomenal ability to take what has been done to me and use it to my own advantage. I can heal and you cannot break me.
Wabi-Sabi exists in acknowledging three basic realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. The beauty is in the wear. I like to think when we see someone who is an “old soul” we are able to recognize in them the lives that have been lived. We see the wear on their soul, the gorgeous imperfections that have traveled through lifetime after lifetime, allowing them to grow bigger and brighter and wiser over the ages.
I think a part of my growth is in accepting that I am a human being who has been hurt, damaged, but not entirely broken. I have repaired myself. My scars are beautiful and I’m working hard on showing more of them. I don’t want to feel ashamed of what I have had to live through. I don’t want society to tell me I should feel that way. I don’t want my nephews growing up believing that any time they’ve been hurt they should hide it away as a mark of some sort of failure to be strong. Strength comes from being injured and recognizing that something uncomfortable has happened, and then taking that experience and drawing our own strength from it. Sure, pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go again, but show those wounds as badges of courage…let the world know that you’ve been hurt but you keep going. If I could ever instill in them one thing, it would be that the cracks the world will give them can be filled with gold and they can shine like a motherfucker not despite them, but because of them.
There is phenomenal beauty in our imperfections. Show me your scars and I will show you mine, one by one, and you will know I am growing more beautiful with each one. I will take all that remains, and write a symphony for you.