Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tool for the Journey #27 - Not Broken

This 'Not Broken' tool for the journey is of particular importance to me. I've thought a long time about how to share this because I want it to be translatable and useful for others as it has been to me.

Let's face it - Life can and does knock us down on our journey. Yes, there are myriad small stumbles which we pick ourselves up from, dust ourselves off and recover from quickly enough. But then again Life has the capacity to 'knock the wind right out of us' in the 'your life is never gonna be the same' sorts of ways. From these places it can be a challenge to find our way back to feeling whole again, to the place where we are 'not broken'.

When I lived in Japan many years ago I learned about the art of kintsukuroi. The art and technique called kintsukuroi is the mending of broken ceramics with gold or silver powder combined with resin. It is a difficult and intensive process requiring no small amount of skill, but when the broken item is fixed, it is adorned with veins of precious metal and is thus made even more beautiful than it was originally. The metaphor here is obvious.

As humans traveling Life's path we get mental, physical and emotional scars which could leave us feeling broken; or if mended in more traditional ways perhaps leave us feeling less 'beautiful' than we once were.

In our modern 'throw away' society we tend to toss out the things that break. We replace rather than repair. We despise flaws in ourselves and others. We want 'flawlessness'. But if we go back just a few generations to our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents we happen upon times where old things were reused or made into new, useful things. We find repairs which lasted and items not cast aside because of a chip or a break or because they became faded.

I'm interested in these past treasures I've found in my great-grandmother's cupboards and in my grandfather's tool-shed.  These items are metaphorical for me, just as the kintsukuroi bowls I saw in Japan - they were lovingly repaired and thus still used and still useful even many years later. They are highly valued over newer, prettier versions of the same.

For me the Western version of kintsukuroi can be summed up in this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit:


“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
- Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


The toys that beome 'real' are not beautiful anymore in the 'brand new' sort of way, but they are also not broken. They are shabby and worn and blessedly loved to pieces. They are irreplaceable. They are the treasures of  childhood.  Just as with a kintsukuroi repaired bowl - the belief is the object is more valuable and beautiful with its history revealed. The breaks, the cracks, the imperfections are 'filled with gold' - and no matter how many imperfections -they are celebrated not hidden!

Too often we try to repair broken things by concealing the repair and with only the hope of making it 'as good as new'. This, in humans, unfortunately can translate to trying desperately to appear 'normal' again especially after a serious injury. However, there is an alternative; there is the possibility of becoming even better than new! With a kintsugi repaired tea cup - the point is it is repaired. It doen't change the fact there was a break or a crack but it renders this fact's NOT BROKEN anymore, it is 'real', it is loved,  and it is more beautiful for having been broken.

I'll be turning 50 years old this summer and I am definitely 'real'. Nothing hidden here. I'm a bit shabby around the edges, my eyes don't work as good as they used to, I can't run as fast as I used to and there are a few more wrinkles and a few more stains on the fabric of me. I have some cracks and even some breaks which thankfully have been 'filled with gold' by the people who love me. 

I've arrived at the point on my life-journey where I can see I'm more valuable and more beautiful for having my history revealed.  I celebrate the evidence of my survival. I laugh more, cry less, give more, take less. I'm tougher than I used to be and the little things, the proverbial skinned knees, just don't bother me any longer.
I'm more at peace with myself and even the cracks in my heart are now filled with the gold and silver resin of wisdom gained on my travels.

We all get broken along the way - this is a given and is to be expected. However, I'm far more interested in how we get back to being 'not broken'. How we fill ourselves up with gold and how we come to the place where we know in our hearts that being 'real' is more important and more valuable than being seemingly flawless. 

These days and however many days are still ahead of me will be spent in the company of all the 'real' people I can find, all the not broken-kinstukuroi mended travelers. We are so much more beautiful, more valuable for our flaws, our wrinkles, our tattered edges; and especially with the broken bits of us mended and shining brightly with the gold and silver 'resin' of the love and wisdom gathered along the way.

I cannot say it better than the Skin Horse:

"... by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”  

Yes indeed! We can never be ugly except to people who do not understand! And therein lies the secret!

Blessings on your journey to 'Real', patience on the road back to 'Not Broken'.

In-Joy and Gratitude,