What happens when your favorite bowl or vase falls and breaks into a hundred pieces? You swear (if you’re me!), throw the pieces away, and feel anger and regret. There’s not much else to do.
Or maybe there is.
There’s a Japanese practice called kintsugi that takes the brokenness itself and makes it attractive. Instead of grieving and rueing the breakage, kintsugi highlights and enhances the breaks. It makes them beautiful, often more beautiful than the object was before it was broken.
Kintsugi uses a precious metal (liquid gold, liquid silver, or lacquer dusted with powdered gold) to bring the pieces of a broken pottery item together. It doesn’t just repair the breaks: it emphasizes them, it enhances them. The technique joins the broken fragments and gives them a new, elegant, more refined aspect. Every repaired piece is unique because of the randomness with which ceramics shatter and the irregular patterns formed.
It’s no secret that we live in a throwaway culture, where obsolescence is built into everything we buy. The moment something gets broken, it gets tossed away. There are a lot of obvious parallels we can draw between the brokenness of objects and the brokenness of humanity, about throwing away shattered bowls and throwing away unwanted people. But there’s also a message there for the community, for us, specifically.
Everyone here is wounded in some way. None of us got to Provincetown accidentally; we came to die, or to defy death; to create, or to understand why we can’t create. Provincetown is land’s end. We’re not on the way anywhere else. So we come with scars and secrets, with pain and fear and shame. This is the place where we come to confront the past and make a new and different future. Some of us do that in a few years, and then move on. Others of us choose to stay and keep at it. Either way, Provincetown can act as a kintsugi master, binding us up with gold.
The gold is the sand at Race Point and the wind in the trees at Beech Forest. It’s the quick smile on Commercial Street and the helping hand at the soup kitchen. It’s supporting each other, healing each other, laughing with each other. The community can do this for each other as long as we don’t spend our time grieving the brokenness. We spend too much time looking at the cracks—our housing situation, our lack of year-round sustenance, our political and gender and other divisions—instead of figuring out how to apply the gold.
After that, it’s simple, because we are the gold.
There’s a lot for us to feel broken about—in the world, in the country, in our community. We have to be the gold for each other, mending each other’s cracks, helping each other through terrible traumas and daily annoyances alike. Kintsugi teaches that the beauty doesn’t come from the places where we’re perfect, and it doesn’t even come from the places where we’re broken.
It comes from the repair itself.
Is there some way you can offer Kintsugi gold to someone in Ptown today?