Do you remember the last time you broke a plate? It’s likely you threw it away without much thought, but there is beauty in those pieces. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with gold, platinum, or silver. The philosophy behind the practice is that there’s beauty and value in a broken object and that flaws should be treated as part of an object’s history rather than something that should be discarded or concealed. Often the pottery ends up looking more beautiful and exquisite after it’s been repaired, bringing more character and uniqueness to the object. Much like humans, experience and adversity can help us improve. Kintsugi reminds us that great value lies in leading interesting lives rather than perfect lives.
The philosophy of kintsugi is closely related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, the idea of embracing the flawed and imperfect, as well as the philosophy of mushin which translates to “no mind.” Mushin is a philosophy often used in martial arts and embraces non-attachment and acceptance of change.
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as ‘no mind,’ but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiﬁcation with, [things] outside oneself.”
— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics
Eastern philosophy often fuses the two seemingly contrasting ideas of embracement and detachment; however, the two are not mutually exclusive and are actually complementary to one another. Kintsugi embodies both -the idea that you can embrace and detach simultaneously with love and acceptance. We can apply this philosophy to many aspects of our lives finding peace where one might normally find loss and sadness.
Detachment is often seen as a negative trait, but when you let go with acceptance and love, rather than anger and resentment, it is quite healing and peaceful. So, next time you break a plate (or break up), remember the art of kintsugi. You might just find beauty and peace in your pieces.