Sunday, 1 September 2013

Kintsugi - transcending imperfection

You can still listen to this radio programme on BBC iPlayer. It is on Radio 4 later tonight (Sunday). I haven't heard it yet, but even the description of it resonates:

"Mending Cracks With Gold.

What can we learn from a broken teapot?

According to legend, when a 15th century shogun smashed his treasured pottery, Japanese artists repaired it with gold. Kintsugi, as the practice is known, gives new life to damaged goods by celebrating their frailty and history. Samira Ahmed considers how we might live a kintsugi life, finding value in the 'cracks' - whether it's the scars showing how we have lived, finding new purpose through loss, or learning to love ourselves despite our flaws.

With readings from The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, Haruki Murakami's After the Quake, and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - and music from Michio Miyagi, the Rolling Stones and Elizabethan composer, John Dowland."

Perfection can surely be over-rated. The gold is in the cracks.


  1. The alchemy lies, as you incredibly rightly say, in 'learning to love ourselves despite our flaws'. I find that, well, insuperably difficult and I would very much like to find this way through. I read, perhaps, a trailer for this and it set me musing like billio. I shall certainly listen to it.

  2. That's such a big subject Charles - compassion for self and compassion for others, two facets of the same thing. It's one of the areas of work in mindfulness meditations, which doesn't mean it's anything less than difficult, as you say, but it does give one a methodology.

    It's when I haven't spent enough time meditating, being in the moment, that I tend to be more than usually intolerant and unnecessarily critical of others, and inevitably and predictably, with my self. So it does seem to inter-relate quite convincingly, for me at least.

  3. I think I'm so much in the habit of keeping my back turned against the past and walking away from it that I fear dealing with it -- the emotional fallout. The thing is, of course, you can't detach yourself from the past, it keeps chattering away inside you. I really must look into mindfulness, GM. Age seems to add urgency - rather like a final demand for end-of-year accounts from HMRC.

  4. "But at my back I always hear/Time's wingéd chariot hurrying near..."
    I guess age does add a useful urgency, useful so long as it's not panic-stricken! The chariot was certainly part of why I started the mindfulness thing.

    Mind you, Marvell was merely trying to get into his lady's knickers, let's face it, and that's a bit different from existential angst.....or is it?

  5. Sex and death have long been in a relationship...

  6. For me this brings to mind a Leonard Cohen lyric

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.

    1. Truly thou hast said, brother Roger - well, brother Leonard too, of course...

  7. Reminded me of this favourite...
    On Joy and Sorrow
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, "Joy is greater thar sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

    Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
    Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
    When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

  8. Thank you et for stopping by and giving us this - much appreciated, much valued.

  9. Well I've been musing on the grief and pain v joy and peace and thinking they're inseparable - I don't think that you can drop grief and pick up joy or vice versa - I think they coexist in our lives, hearts, experiences. The concept that you somehow fail if you continue to feel pain long after bereavement makes me feel uncomfortable - it's not my experience, nor of those I know. I think the sharpness/depth of the pain can almost be a delight, a thrill even, of being 'alive' and able to suffer - if that doesn't sound too weird? There's a certain power from recognising grief and the space that bereavement leaves with us. I don't say one should dwell on it, but I do think one can get better at carrying it around and that it sharpens the focus on the important and significant matters of life and love. If I lost a child I would always want to feel that loss. I would never want to look into my heart and only see joy. The thought of gold smoothed into the scars and making them shine is brilliant.

  10. There's so much clarity and truth here et, thank you again.

    So we learn from grief, it pushes us onwards; and yes, maybe the idea that you are failing someone dear to you when you stop feeling the pain of bereavement is a self-destructive impulse.

    The last stanza of "How Long Does a Man Live?" by Brian Patten (out of Pablo Neruda) sums that up in a way I've found useful in funerals.

    I've long mistrusted the polarisation of human feeling: grief vs joy. So often we find both in an effective funeral ceremony. Either/or just doesn't seem to work if you tune in to the reality of our feelings in many areas of life.

  11. Peter Meyer Japanese bowls

    worth a watch

  12. Bingo, thanks very much Annee- just lovely.