Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Finding Beauty in Imperfection
The earth-colored ceramic bowl was decorated with golden lines. They were not arranged in patterns and flowed like a stream, freely running in different directions.
The bowl was the work of Kintsugi. Kin means “gold” in Japanese, and tsugi means “connect.” Kintsugi is the traditional Japanese art of restoring fractured ceramics with gold powdered lacquer applied between the cracks as glue. Instead of throwing away broken ceramics as useless products, Japanese artisans five hundred years ago saw beauty in fracture and created a way to enhance it.
This approach of seeing the beauty in imperfection is the backbone of Zen arts such as calligraphy, Sumi-e black ink painting, and ikebana flower arrangement. To the Japanese, perfection is not so interesting because it is the finished state: no more potential, growth, or surprise.
A legend tells that Sen No Rikyu, the Japanese tea ceremony master, intentionally left dead leaves in the otherwise perfectly raked garden.
In nature, nothing exists in a perfect condition. No meadow is without weeds. No flower stem is straight. No pond is free of sediment. No human lacks flaw.
We are always imperfect.
When we are young, our body is strong, but our mind is restless and lacks wisdom. As we grow older, our body deteriorates while our mind becomes more balanced and wiser. Each season of our life is blessed with beauty: the beauty of imperfection. Instead of striving for perfection as our modern culture pressures us to do it, why don’t we try to find beauty in imperfection, in our aging body or wounded heart? Instead of seeing ourselves as fractured beings, we could distill beauty from our flaws.
We just need to tap into the gold stored deep within and apply it to our imperfections to shine.
So, what is your gold?
“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That's what connects us--that we're all broken, all beautifully imperfect.”― Emilio Estevez