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The Japanese Art of Kintsugi: Perfection Through Imperfection

August 07, 2017 | By Ryan Landes-Gilman

16412755233_54d5b41841_b-313760-edited.jpgPhoto credit: Flikr user Pomax

What is Kintsugi? An Art of Renewal

When something appears to be broken what do you do? Do you throw it away and replace it with something new? Or do you try to mend it together to form something different and beautiful?

This is the underlying philosophy behind the Japanese pottery art of kintsugi. Instead of throwing away the broken pieces of a shattered jar or vase, the pieces are mended back together with gold lacquer.

Wabi-Sabi: Embracing the Imperfect

In Japanese philosophy there exists the idea of “wabi-sabi,” the act of embracing the flawed or the imperfect.   When kintsugi is used to mend together broken pottery, the cracks are highlighted, rather than hidden.

In our society marks of superficial imperfection are shunned. Blemishes and age marks are removed with plastic surgery. Countless cosmetic skin treatments flood the market. Perfection is an absolute must.

This mentality even pervades our food. GMO produce is engineered in labs to be as large, colorful, and, generally, aesthetically pleasing as possible. But, to the discerning eye, something about this “perfection” seems off.

On a continual basis we are told to get new phones, new clothes - new everything - anything to stay connected to the transient perfection of the moment. At the same time, little significance is placed upon inner spiritual growth.

This outlook creates many contradictions. And said contradictions complicate our day to day lives, draining the depth from many of our interactions. We become mentally fatigued and this hollow complexity creates a repeating cycle that leaves us longing for something more.

Less Is More - The Spirit of Traditional Japanese Art

Many ancient Japanese arts, including the pottery technique of kintsugi are centered around a very different philosophy - simplicity and bringing out the beauty that is already present in the world around us.

Haiku, Ikebana, and traditional Japanese culinary practices are all ancient arts based around these principles. Less is more and perfection is achieved through bringing into focus what is already present.

Perfection without Perfection - Striving For a Better Self

Perfection, as it is portrayed in the Western media, is not perfection. There is no perfect love, no perfect beauty. But, without the presence of imperfections, the wonders of the world would not be so breathtaking.

Imperfection is simply part of being, and perfection is all about embracing our imperfection as we strive to naturally better ourselves. Just as Kintsugi highlights the cracks in a piece of pottery, rather than hiding them, we should look at ourselves and the world at large and consider what we really want for the future.

We Are All Connected

Today the Earth and its ecosystems are in jeopardy, in part because of our relationship to perfection. Instead of appreciating items with wear & tear as beautiful, or mending broken items, we see those things as disposable and replace them with new items, creating waste and putting more demand on the Earth's resources.

If we shift our relationship to the Earth and to perfection, embracing the philosophy of less is more and wabi-sabi, there exists potential to create a sustainable future for our planet and all the life that exists on it. Like pieces of shattered pottery, we are all connected. Through coming together we can mend the Earth.

It's Not Too Late: The First Rights of Nature Laws and Other Advances

Many believe that it is already too late to save the Earth that the damage has already been done that there’s nothing they can do anyway that it won’t affect them and the next generation can deal with it. 

It’s not too late. People and governments across the world are currently in the midst of taking bold steps to heal the Earth’s wounds and create a sustainable future.

Many countries across Europe have been taking bold measures to quickly put an end to the use of fossil fuels! Carbon emissions are being decreased, and non-recyclable waste is being phased out.

In addition, Ecuador has passed the world’s first Rights of Nature laws.

Additional Reading Buen Vivir Learn about how governments are including rights  of nature in their constitutions through the concept of Buen Vivir.

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