Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Broken. Cracked. Damaged. Unsightly. Destroyed. If these words were used to describe something in every day conversation it would typically mean that it should be thrown away. Except, when you bring Kintsugi into play.

I recently read an article about Kintsugi. Up until then I had never heard of this Japanese art form. If you are like I was you probably need me to explain this to you. Kintsugi, is pottery that has been damaged and repaired with gold tinted epoxy. The philosophy behind this, as defined on Wikipedia is, "Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.".   

I was so taken by this philosophy and the art driven by it that I continued to follow the little Wikipedia rabbit trails, as I fell into a Wonderland of possibilities. One of my trails led to Wabi-sabi. UTNE Reader, in my opinion, describes it best, "...wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection... ...It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to see the singular beauty in something that may first look decrepit and ugly.".

At this point, if you are still bearing with me, you may be wondering why I have even brought up these two Japanese philosophies. This is where I suggest that these philosophies have a lot to do with a person's thinking where chronic illness is involved. So often when a person is diagnosed with a chronic illness, it's considered the beginning of the end. Not necessarily "the end" as in dying, but the end as in the end of life as you've previously lived it. While this can be the case I'd like to propose that using the two Japanese philosophies can open a whole new view on chronic illness.

Chronic illnesses often bring with them awful side effects and additional diagnoses. It can leave a person feeling broken, cracked, damaged, and deserving of "being thrown away". Instead we can look for the wabi-sabi in things, look beyond that damaged surface, and see the beauty of the person. The wisdom and patience of the trials they have overcome. We are more beautiful and stronger than even for being broken. Embracing the brokenness is beauty.

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