Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Sealing the Cracks with Gold

How many of us have tried to glue together a broken plate or cup or figurine in such a way that the damage is invisible? A friend once sent me some ceramic tai chi figures that all got broken in shipment. I spent hours piecing together the fragments. Most of the repairs were almost undetectable, but I was frustrated by a few places where the seams did not match perfectly, where it was easy to see that the figure had been broken and repaired. I saw these places as flaws and put the figures on the shelf with the defects turned toward the wall.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with adhesive mixed with gold. Rather than trying to hide the damage, the breakage becomes part of the acknowledged history of the piece. The golden seams highlight the repair, creating their own design and contributing to the beauty of the original.

I had never heard of this practice until yesterday, when a devastated friend who lost her two dogs in a tragic accident told me about it, questioning the “added value of mended brokenness.” She wondered whether she could ever “get there.”

If we live long enough, we will have our hearts broken, and perhaps have our lives shattered. We talk in terms of healing and becoming whole again. But after we put the pieces back together, what becomes of the scars that are a part of our history? Are we embarrassed by them? Do we try to hide them? Do we forget them and pretend the hurt never happened? Do we strive to present to the world, and to ourselves, an image of original perfection, unblemished by the wear and tear of life?

I can certainly look at my own life and identify things I wish weren’t there–wounds that still hurt, actions I’m ashamed of, failures that still sting, losses that haunt. In my own mind, my history is rewritten to minimize or even erase things that do not fit the story I prefer to tell. My life is full of “inconvenient truth.”

But yesterday I spent hours reading about the history and philosophy of this remarkable Japanese art. I looked at hundreds of images of bowls, plates, cups, and vases, once broken but now beautifully repaired with seams of gold crisscrossing the original design. Here is unapologetic brokenness, openly acknowledged, and sealed with something precious.

I began to think of my life this way. All those cracks. Could I see them without judgment and instead acknowledge them with compassion? Could I seal them not with rejection but with golden love? Could they become a beautiful part of who I am?

Like my friend, I wonder if I can ever get there. Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Perhaps it is also the place where the light shines forth, if we let it.

Note: You can read about this statue and see more photos here.

15 thoughts on “Sealing the Cracks with Gold”

  1. Oh, what an amazing and meaningful concept, Galen! I love that all the bruises, hurts and broken shards of our lives can be mended with gold, which admits our shortcomings, yet reflects the pure light of lessons learned. It's as if when we are broken, we come back stronger, with more humility, understanding, and the ability to shine our light to others who are struggling with their own lives.
    Blessings, my friend!

  2. Thanks, Martha. You captured perfectly what I was trying to say! Yes, humility is so much a part of that, and the humility becomes part of the beauty that we are able to share.

  3. Beautifully written and illustrated with a beautiful sculpture. The concept of wabi sabi is a lot like this. I think if we allow it, imperfection makes room for us to see things in new ways. Thank you for writing about this and encouraging the celebration of our flaws, our scars and our attempts to erase the mistakes. I think it's fascinating and liberating if we're brave enough to embrace it. I must admit it makes me a little nervous. But I think that's a good thing.

  4. Wow, Dixie, I am learning so much! Two days ago I didn't know about kintsugi or wabi sabi. I just read a bit about the latter, and I look forward to learning more about it.

    I know what you mean about being nervous. I feel the same way. It's beautiful in the pottery, but applying it to my personal life? A little uncomfortable. Maybe we could just start with the smallest cracks! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Hey, I like this idea a lot. I need to get a tube of that gold stuff! I cracked myself up pretty good falling down on the trail today, and I want some to patch myself up with. I wonder if they have it on Amazon? 🙂

  6. I've been thinking of filling all my wrinkles with gold! Let me know if you find some. Hope you weren't injured too badly. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Fascinating! I am somewhat familiar with wabi sabi but not kintsugi. I am going to follow up with some investigation, beginning with the link and beautiful photo you included in your post. Thank you—

  8. Polly, we are all learning from each other. Thanks to Dixie's comment, I've now been reading about wabi sabi. As I mentioned in the post, a friend told me about kintsugi. In looking for images, I stumbled across that statue, and now another friend has told me more about that. One thing that is interesting about the statue is that the artist's work was not valued until that statue was broken and reconfigured to have the pieces reassembled with the light shining out. That's a short version of the story on the link. Anyway, glad you liked it!

  9. This was just so interesting and I am going to ponder about it for a while. I have never heard about this before; so I find it intriguing. You are studying some interesting ideas. Wishing for you a blessed weekend. Hugs~.

  10. Thanks, LeAnn. You might want to also check out and ponder the concept of wabi sabi that Dixie mentioned in her comment above. This is all new to me, too! Hope you are having a good weekend. I just got back from the cabin.

  11. Hi Galen – not only does the gold make the damaged items whole again but makes it more beautiful. The falls and cracks in my life used to be hidden but I fully embrace and am grateful towards them today. A great story and analogy for our lives.

  12. Yes, Vishnu, you are the poster child (man!) for this concept! Everything you write about manifests the compassionate acceptance of our "cracks" and the golden beauty of healing them with love. Thanks for commenting.

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