Mass production has taken a hard stance against individuality. In fact, it might be hard for most in our generation to recollect or identify with the importance of uniqueness. If something breaks, you replace it with something new. It’s that simple.
Whether liberal or conservative, everybody can shed a collective tear on the lost tradition of valuing your own, personal property.
Think about your favorite toy as a child. Even if there were 30,000 identical versions stocking the shelves of the nearest department store, you probably could’ve sworn that yours was individual and unique. And loathe was the person who broke or misplaced it. My favorite toy, a dreidel, was given to me by a Jewish friend of mine.
While I have no Jewish heritage or background, I would’ve fought tooth and nail to prevent anything from harming my little trinket. But that’s not to say I had a larger affinity for dreidels or Jewish memorabilia at all. My dreidel was a gift. It represented something irreplaceable.
It was a part of me. I even knew exactly which side of the dreidel bore a small, brown smudge. No other dreidel would do, and it wouldn’t do if someone harmed it in any way.
So what’s wrong with me, you ask? Well, depending on who you ask, the list goes on and on. But this particular practice is not uncommon for people. If an object represents some importance or bears some singular significance, people find it difficult to part with that item. So the question in my mind is, “why?”
Of the countless carbon copies, why is it that mine is the one that contains irreplaceable importance? I’m sure there are dreidels without multicolored smudges and stains. Those, one would assume, should be more attractive for me.
This quandary kept me busy for some time. In fact, it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a new word that I had any concept of how to answer the question. While talking to one of my friends, I was introduced to the Japanese word “Kintsukuroi.”
Translated literally from Japanese, this word means “golden repair.” However, it represents the unique and beautiful art form of repairing broken pottery using golden adhesive. The notion behind this strange technique is that the golden color adds much more to the art than a clear or invisible resin can.
While the origins of this art form aren’t entirely clear, its deeper sentimentality has probably existed since man’s humble beginnings. The idea underlying the use of golden colors instead of clear ones is that breakage and mishandling inevitably becomes part of that art’s personal history.
Each chip and knick celebrates the progression of that piece. They each offer a portion of a larger story, chronicling its journey. The belief is that these events should be highlighted, and not hidden. They should be accepted and ingrained.
So, when I think about my little, mishandled dreidel, I understand my dedication to it more fully these days. It told its own story, smudges and all. Different dreidels, from different stores or gifted by different friends, can’t convey the same message. They sing a different tune and have different experiences.
While this applies to various toys and trinkets, it applies to life much more broadly. Kintsukuroi is a mindset. It’s the belief that any experience or encounter, especially the ones that break and chip away at our outward veneer, shouldn’t be swept from our thoughts. Instead, there’s special beauty in allowing those experiences to form us and add – not detract – from one’s self.
Experiences from your own life might prove this Japanese belief. Difficult situations, overloaded with stress and emotion, are conquerable. You’re a living testament to that fact simply by merit of the fact that you’re still here.
Even through all of the agonizing things you’ve dealt with in your life, you’ve come out on top. And while these circumstances might have been anything but comfortable, you’ve likely gained invaluable wisdom and general gumption for your troubles.
Your life, and every experience therein, paint you in the selfsame golden hues that define the Japanese art form. Don’t block out painful situations from your memory or uncomfortable thoughts from your mind.
Accept them as the very glue that makes you as brilliantly individual as any other quality you possess. It’ll take a shift in your thinking, but it’s the shift that changes your view of the world from negative to positive.
More simply, it transforms the broken pieces in front of you from pain to art.