Embracing Disaster


Our cracks are showing! It’s as though we’ve dropped a precious piece of pottery on the ground and smashed it all to smithereens. I’m talking about our country of course, if you live in and love the Not-So-United-States. The sinking feeling is the same as when we break some cherished gift from our Great Grandparents, say like, the votecivil rights, or clean air. Did we take too much for granted and not protect the most important pots holding our American ideals?

So we’re left now to pick up the pieces while trying to avoid getting cut on the shards of divisiveness and pernicious politics. For many of us, our first instinct when something seems broken beyond repair is to throw it out. After all, who needs the painful reminder of what we’ve lost?

In Japanese culture, there is a brilliant art form called Kintsugi that dates back about 600 years. This is the art of repairing pottery with gold (or other metals) with great reverence for the idea that something is MORE beautiful for having been broken. Instead of hiding the damage, Kintsugi exhalts and elevates the broken piece to a never before realized elegance. It’s a metaphor for so many things, you can just fill in the blank of what parts of your life may be in need of a gold infusion.

The story goes that a 15th century Shogun broke a prized tea bowl and sent it back to China for repair. When it was returned, the staples used to fix it were visible and so the Shogun asked his Japanese craftsmen to improve on the aesthetics. With such an inspired solution, it’s not surprising that the evolution of Kintsugi has come to include modern day applications on a much larger scale, such as a floor.


Like the earth’s fault lines, we too, have our individual lines that tell our stories. There are lines we can see, like with our veins, in our palms, or in our wisdom wrinkles — but there are also more invisible ones. Like the friction between the tectonic plates, we have to release the pressure within ourselves to avoid severe cracking. With the tectonic shift that occurred last week and that has left so many of us devastated, we MUST not let it destroy us.We have to try to take it on the chin.

That’s an expression I’d never stopped to think about before I had a dog years ago who jumped off a thirty foot bridge and survived. The vet told us that since Rio The Base Jumper was under two-years-old, the two sides of his doggie jawbone had not yet fused together, and that it was all still cartilaginous tissue around the chin. That’s what allowed him to bounce instead of break.


This image of Kintsugi simply stopped me cold. Her ‘cracks’ are kind of everywhere. We can’t see her legs, but the cracks are clearly wrapped around her hips and shall we say, her sexual epicenter. They are also all up and down one arm that has undoubtedly attempted to embrace disaster time and time again.

For me though, the kicker here is the damage in her face. After almost two years of living with trigeminal neuralgia, (inflammation of the trigeminal nerve that comes from the back of the neck and branches out into three parts on both sides of the face), I cried when I saw this — it’s even on her right side like mine. Neurologists and pain management have explained it to me as my body going into ‘fight or flight’ mode, and then just staying there long after an initial event, usually a virus.

So when I think about the work ahead, I realize that it’s not only about tending to the cracks in myself, but more importantly, identifying the cracks all around us, so that we can begin to pour in the gold and to rebuild all that’s been broken. I believe in the power of Kintsugi and know that we can make it more beautiful than it was before, by celebrating and adopting the diversity of solutions that come to us from every culture and civilization on earth.

Now on to Mexico, that blessed country that brought us tequila — now available with gold-flakes in it — a gift from some friends that we’ve been saving for a “special occasion.” While special occasion isn’t exactly the right way to describe this new reality, I can’t think of a better delivery system right for the gold right about now.



3 thoughts on “Embracing Disaster

  1. Gretchen Reed says:

    So funny – we’ve been talking about Kintsugi here at work this year so I was familiar with it. Then I was reading a fictional book, but the characters were quoting Leonard Cohen “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” which made me think of kintsugi again. It all ties together, eh!


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