Kintsugi is the Japanese art of “gold joinery”. In practice, artists use Kintsugi to repair cracked or broken ceramics by filling the cracks with a lacquer mixed with precious metal dust (typically gold). The guiding principle of Kintsugi is simple: rather than mask the damages and repairs to an object, embrace these blemishes as part of its history. It is seen as a process of accepting that change and fate are an inevitable part of life, and places value on the wear of an object as an indication of its resilience.
For a practitioner of Kintsugi, seeing the potential in a flaw is half the battle. Finding ways to repair these flaws in a way that adds value to the original form, rather than simply concealing the flaws, is the other half. Kintsugi encourages a "renovation" mindset as opposed to a "reconstruction" or “replacement” mindset. While reconstructing or replacing an item yields a shinier and less imperfect outcome, renovation retains an items personality, history, and legacy. Showcasing this journey to facilitate understanding for an object’s current state makes both the object and its creator more relatable.
When we see something that is “perfect”, we tend to attribute its creation to a highly skilled artisan. Perfection is seen as “unattainable” for most, and is celebrated as an indicator of skill and success. In reality, the work before us is rarely the creator’s first attempt; rather, it is the product of many iterations and failed attempts. If given the ability to view the process taken by the creator, the viewer would likely view the final work as attainable and relatable. Just as the element of surprise wears off once we know how a magic trick is done, seeing the process of creation makes the final work easier to comprehend.
In the same way that the principle of Kintsugi can be applied to tangible creations, it can also be applied to life. By filling the low points of life with as much positivity as possible, one can slowly “gild” their flaws to create a future that is stronger and brighter than any moment in the past. It starts with the simple act of the identifying one’s flaws. Repairing these flaws while adding value requires discipline and positivity; two qualities that are difficult to embody when dealing with the trials and tribulations of life. Those that are able to successfully repair their flaws emerge stronger and more anti-fragile. Often times, the process of identifying and “gilding” flaws also leads to the creation of value, which in turn contributes to future happiness.
Next time you hear about the wildly successful businessman or the incredibly talented athlete, try to understand the process they had to undergo to become the version of themselves you are reading about in a magazine or seeing on TV. Chances are that the valleys of life forced them to face their flaws, and how they gilded those flaws created who they are today.