Kentsugi 4/12/22

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

America is a disposable society.  It seems like as soon as anything is broken, it is immediately discarded and replaced.  In Japan, as I understand it, the philosophy is very different.  Not only do the Japanese people repair (as they can) items as they are broken, but they revere these items even more.  If a plate is broken and repaired, it not only can continue to serve its purpose, but it has a history, a story, to it as well.  “This plate was broken by my daughter when she was seven and trying to teach herself to juggle while I wasn’t watching.” 

This practice has evolved to the point where it is now considered to be an art form called Kentsugi.  Often the repairs are made with obvious adhesives, thick enough to show the breaks, and painted gold.  The pathways of the broken pieces is considered beautiful, and the resulting piece is often stronger than the original unbroken.  The glass pieces remaining are smaller than the original and therefore harder to break, and the glue is more flexible than the glass, allowing it to absorb impacts better than glass can.

We, you and I, are not so different.  I’ve been broken in very obvious physical ways.  The scars on my chest, and leg, tell a story about my heart attack and double bypass.  Every day I look at these scars, ugly as they are, and remind myself of my brush with death.  I’m still here, my heart is beating, and these scars are my reminder of my survival, so maybe they’re not so ugly after all.  Maybe they are a reminder of how strong I actually am in the face of adversity.

But humans have so many different levels of breaking, and scarring.  Emotionally, I’m still struggling with my divorce, and a history of heartbreak that has left me withered and likely unable to ever find a loving relationship again as my defenses are too high, and my ways too set.  I’ve moved from living to survival and remain in my defensive cocoon to protect what remains of myself.  I know this, the first step to getting past it, but much like a broken vase, I don’t think I can repair myself.  The damage is too extensive to the point where I can’t even begin to hold the flowers of a new relationship.  So on the floor I remain, and likely will.

It took the hands of a surgeon to repair my heart, to cut out the rot, and fix the missing pieces that were left behind.  Sometimes, we simply cannot repair ourselves, and without the hands of a loving partner, I don’t see a way out of this shattered realm in which I live.  I’ve tried self-healing techniques, therapists, and a plethora of friends with the best of intentions who genuinely care for me and love me, but somehow, it’s just not what I need to go forward.  I’ve even been denied having had a great love, the memories of which I can hold onto as I march inexorably towards my ultimate demise.

Some, perhaps even many, are far more fortunate than I.  It’s not easy to stand by someone who has been broken to the core, but they have found their partner who did just that.  It takes time to tear down the defensive barriers of a relationship, to understand the hurt that one can feel, and to build a broken ego back to a level of glory.  All too often, it’s easier to bypass the broken and downtrodden in favor of finding a partner who is still whole, who exemplifies the features that are the desire of the seeker.  I understand that.  Even fixing a broken cup takes time, patience, and skill.  Fixing a man like me would be a monstrous task.

So for those who have helped another to overcome their past, who have a loving relationship with a partner who helped them to overcome the damage in their life, I’m very happy for you both.  It should be a great source of pride, and people who have overcome tragic pasts are often the people with the most beautiful hearts.  Living through poverty tends to create people who are most generous in times of plenty.  People who have been hurt by superiors often make the best leaders.  People who have grown up in narcissistic families often create the most loving homes.  Be proud of the scars you have overcome, the damage that is in the past.  These are the breaks that make you who you are, and the scars that make you the beautiful person that you are today. 

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