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on creating beauty from what's broken

(artist credit - Bruno Capolongo)

Here in upstate New York, we’re poised to slowly re-emerge into this brave new world. Taking one cautious step at a time, we’re being asked to determine what feels like the next right move for each of us, and how to continue to create safety for ourselves and the people and community around us.

I’ve been struck, in many circles, about the heightened sense of responsibility we have towards one another – it feels very precious - and also the quality of listening into the space in between to make sure each one feels comfortable. On walks I pay attention to who’s wearing a mask, who’s not, who’s elderly, who’s young, who’s looking around with a smile in their eyes, and who looks frightened. I pay attention to how my actions can acknowledge their humanity.

It’s a new kind of respect, one that regards the Other with much more care and compassion.

As we begin to ease our distancing, there’s a question that hangs in the air. What will this new world look like? What has quarantine been teaching us - about what we, actually, need?

Taking this a step further, what can you let go of from your old, pre-pandemic way of being?

Do the beliefs and systems you were operating with before still have meaning? What have you discovered during this time of quarantine that makes sense for your new, emerging life?

There is a Japanese art form called Kintsugi (金継ぎ, "golden joinery") which is a practice of repairing broken pottery with lacquer and powdered gold. You take what is cracked, a bowl for example, and mend it with gold. The result is a vessel with gilded lines running through it – a piece that is often more beautiful than before. The image above is an example.

The metaphor is clear. Our scars are beautiful. They are the places we’ve healed that have shown us our strength, our resilience, and our capacity for transformation. They remind us of the full life we've lived. Sometimes in the process of repairing things that are seemingly broken, we can actually create something more unique, beautiful and resilient.

And in highlighting and re-presenting the cracks and repairs, it is not the brokenness that is celebrated, but the redemption. This is the symbolism inherent in the art of kintsugi – a type of metaphor for human healing, renewal or rebirth - that strikes a chord at this time. It reminds us that beauty and strength can come from picking up the pieces that life leaves us in sometimes, and making something new.

It is only by being sick that we learn how to heal. It is by going through tough times that we realize our full potential. It is only through great disruption that we learn how glue the pieces back together with gold and discover what is truly important.

Awareness, Acceptance, Action

There is, of course, a process to all this. It begins with the awareness of what is broken, of what needs an upgrade. Here is the broken bowl. Here are the systems we already knew were broken.

Then, the acceptance. There is no going back. The bowl will not, no matter how much magical thinking you apply, fix itself. Nor will the systems. It's important just to BE with the information. This part - acceptance - may take a long time.

The next step is action. Let's keep this simple. What is the most elegant next step you can take towards wholeness? Towards a more beautiful life? Towards an appreciation for the wholeness of the moment right now?

The kintsugi of your life, of our lives, takes work and awareness in order for it to truly be healing. If we view life as a work of art - how do we expose the layers of what we thought was supposed to happen, of our expectations, and then rethink how they might back be brought back together?

  • What needs to change?

  • What are the pieces of our old life that we’ll hold onto and glue back together with gold?

  • What is the future calling us to?

Please share your thoughts below. The world is waiting to hear you.


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