Gilded Cracks and Broken Vessels

The Japanese have an interesting concept called kintsugi. Sometimes, when a treasured ceramic teapot, dish, or vase is broken, it is mended and gold is applied to highlight the cracks. They believe that the damage the item has gone through has made it more beautiful.

The are a lot of times throughout our lives when we break. It can be that time you were fired from the best job you’ve ever had, maybe your spouse deciding that your marriage wasn’t worth working on anymore, or the death of a beloved friend or parent.

The problem is not in the breaking, it is when we think of the act of breaking as a weakness. We all know the schtick–we fall, we pick ourselves up–over and over and over again until we fall for the last time. It’s cliche, but sometimes cliches exist for a reason. Each time we reforge ourselves anew and, even though we protest it like a red-hot iron hissing in a pail of quenching oil, we become stronger for it.

We always have scars–they are our victory medals; proof that we have weathered a storm that threatened to annihilate us and somehow still survived–half drowned and clinging to a sinking lifeboat with little more than sheer determination–but those scars prove we’re still here. Even if they mar our beauty or our innocence, the physical and emotional scars clarify our vision and serve as a reminder that we’re not done yet.

Sometimes I greedily think about my own end and how it will break those who love me. Sometimes that end seems far away and at other times it seems close enough to give me a chilling kiss on the lips as my own personal Memento mori. It is an impetus of what is truly important and what important things I have yet to do.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.” – Steve Jobs