June 1, 2023

When we were younger and full of hope, we may have had conceptions of perfect and flawless ideals. We wanted a fulfilling relationship, a happy family, and a satisfying profession, to name a few. It was these ideals that shaped our standards to live in what is perceived as reality. However, we grew and gained insight into the reality of things. To make matters worse, we suddenly had to make adjustments to fit the status quo.
The beginning of the pandemic hit everyone at a standstill accompanied by many unprecedented losses – loss of normalcy, loss of control, loss of compassion, loss of empowerment, the literal loss of life, and the list may go on and on. This multitude of events may lead to grief and possible social alienation secondary to the grieving process.
Grief is raw and leaves us vulnerable. In these trying times, we may hide it or distract ourselves to forget. There may even be times that we feel like we do not have time to be distraught because we think that there are things we need to do, though this should not be the case.
A journal commentary made by Jeff Clyde Corpuz, a professor from Dela Salle University, said, “It is important to acknowledge the loss and the feelings of grief and its future implications to the bereaved.” The context may be about death losses but I think it can also be applied to non-death losses. Acknowledging the feelings of the self and other individuals provide better healing and make it easier to understand a problem. This action, fortunately, finds similarities with the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi.
Kintsugi literally means “to join with gold.” It is the process of sealing the cracks of a vessel with lacquer and dusted with gold. The fragments are carefully collected and pieced together with the intention of making the fractures lines strong and beautiful. Doing this is said to make the pottery or ceramic more exquisite and valuable as compared to its original form. The concept of kintsugi finds its origins during the shogunate of Ashikaga Yoshimasa (around the 15th century) when he broke his favorite teacup. He sent the pieces to China to be fixed but it was brought back with unpleasant metallic staples. Yoshimasa then tasked his craftsmen to repair it appropriately and they returned his cup with a remarkable transformation.
The metaphor of kintsugi suggests many things but brings forth philosophical values of resilience, healing, and restoration. To be able to keep firm and stand strong, we must break to transform – an internal metamorphosis of some sort. Isn’t it beautiful to see our mental scars as radiant as the golden cracks of a vessel put together by kintsugi? Sometimes, I wonder if we are really prepared for what the world offers. Many of us struggle every single day. We carry this burden, grief, and suffering for a very long time that it affects our daily living.
Maybe in our journey to move forward, to understand ourselves, or to find peace, we bury our losses. But kintsugi does not forget, it doesn’t disguise the cracks. In fact, it makes everything else feel better. Through this concept, we learn that it is okay to not be okay; that we should not look over our scars but embrace them, learn from them, and transform to be the best person we can be. Kintsugi does not hurt but removes the weight off our chest. It is always better to acknowledge our feelings as well as others. Resentment and anger get us nowhere when compassion and encouraging support are what everyone else is looking for in this pandemic.
Perhaps, in time we’ll be able to be that vessel who values themselves that we get to influence others to follow a path of healing and transformation. Grief is similar to the cracks of a vessel; it branches and gets longer and deeper as time passes by. We and everybody else have cracks in various places and of different forms. Our actions may worsen the cracks that probably even kintsugi will not be able to mend. Maybe, just a little compassion and empathy may create a kintsugi among others. As Aesop once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
In these times, we may forget that all of us experienced losses. People have different tolerance levels after all. Loss of control may be the most common, and sometimes we get reprimanded for it by others and ourselves. It may be time to reflect and give the care, love, and respect, that is given to repairing a shattered vessel through kintsugi, to ourselves, and in time to those around us as well. It is alright to be vulnerable. It is alright to feel all these emotions. We are but humans who shatter and make mistakes in our span of life. Nevertheless, the concept of kintsugi may get us through many adversities. (SELWYN MILES M. DAMPAC)