I wrote this for the ICoN Newsletter but I thought it would also make a nice end-of-the-year message as we enjoy the last holiday before the next round of legislative sessions begin. I needed this message this morning as much as anyone, as quite frankly, I've been depressed and grumpier than usual as of late.
MUSINGS ON KINTSUGI AND THE PHOENIX
I was trying to come up with a last minute idea to fill space for this month’s newsletter when I just happened to turn on CBS Sunday Morning. With December 31st falling on a Sunday this year, the show was filled with discussions of the events over the past year (as expected), but they discussed something interesting I felt was worth sharing. They discussed something called “Kintsugi.” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a special lacquer containing powdered gold (sometimes silver or platinum) which not only breathes new life into a broken vessel, but increases the beauty of the once broken piece. This repair method celebrates each artifact's unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them.
“Kintsugi art dates back to the late 15th century. According to legend, the craft commenced when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a cracked chawan—or tea bowl—back to China to undergo repairs. Upon its return, Yoshimasa was displeased to find that it had been mended with unsightly metal staples. This motivated contemporary craftsmen to find an alternative, aesthetically pleasing method of repair, and Kintsugi was born.
Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change.” [From “Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold.” MyModernArt.com. Apr. 25, 2017. https://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/]
We in America live in a throwaway society. If something is broken or has imperfections, we throw it away or donate it to a thrift store. Vegetables that do not meet a specific standard for shape and overall looks are rejected for sale in grocery stores. This principle seemingly applies to people as well. We are considered “broken vessels,” useless and ready to be discarded. However, those of us who are considered broken can not only repair our lives, we can strengthen what were once our imperfections and make them beautiful.
Two ways of applying Kintsugi on our souls is through personal healing and through an activist lifestyle. Whether you are still in prison or are in the “free world,” we all have great struggles to endure. You don’t have to face it alone. There are treatment organizations willing to help those still struggling with personal issues. There are online support groups like SOSEN that can help those in the “free world” but struggling with life on the list.
Even in prison, there are ways to prepare for life as an activist; activist organizations like OnceFallen help those adjusting to life on the registry and gain knowledge needed to navigate the confusing world of registration. (On a related note, OnceFallen turned 10 year old on December 5, 2017). This newsletter offers up resources and activist tools each month.
My slogan for OnceFallen.com is “Through Knowledge and Wisdom, We Rise from the Ashes.” (It is by design my logo is a Phoenix). Like a repaired piece of broken pottery or the legendary Phoenix, we can overcome and be made whole again. That slogan I shared was for a treatment-focused group I was forming with some prisoners called SOPHIA (SOs Pursuing Healing In Adversity). I believe that knowledge (“book smarts”) and wisdom (“street smarts”) IS power. You may not be able to stop every bad thing that happens from here on out, but you can make the most of your life in whatever life situation you currently face. Many of us find contentment, peace, and life a good life even in the midst of this persecution.
To me, there is no greater beauty than one who can rise from the ashes of a broken life. Your success, however, won’t be measured by income or material possessions, but in finding happiness in whatever situation you find. Imagine the looks on the faces of the “haters” when what were once cracks and imperfections now glitter with gold!