Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, pandemic variants, exhausted health care workers, lack of hospital beds, vaccination refusals, incomplete Afghan evacuation, hungry children, torture of women, terrorism, growing authoritarianism, poor economy, limited supplies, abortions banned, unjust voting rules, unsettling insurrection, mask fights, airline brawls, red/blue hatred–the list could go on and on! We appear to be living in a dystopian time, a time not unlike others over the past several thousand years of human history.
Married to an historian I am frequently reminded that other periods in history were also bad, like WWI, WWII, the Great Depression, the Great Plague of London, the Spanish Flu, the removal of American Indians, and many others could be added to what is merely the start of such a list.
Several days ago I inadvertently knocked a valued piece of pottery off its shelf –actually two tumbled down and smashed into a dozen pieces. They were beautiful rustic lidded soup bowls I’d purchased over 5 decades ago in St. Ives, England at the Leach Pottery Studio. I had purchased 8 bowls, lids, and saucers and used them almost every day. After 50+ years of joyfully using these pieces, I was down to 5 bowls, 7 lids, and 6 saucers–until the recent accident eliminated two more bowls. I felt so stupid. I’ve always been so careful with these pieces and each time a piece was broken it was happenstance, a guest dropped it by mistake, a child’s carelessness, etc. I’d intended to pass them to my kids, two of whom were once potters themselves, all three loving Leach pottery as much as I.
Feeling there must be something I could do I looked up pottery repair. In my search I ran across something called kintsugi, a process of putting broken pottery back together with gold–a metaphor for embracing one’s flaws and imperfections. Kintsugi is a 15th-Century practice meaning “to join with gold,” a reminder to stay optimistic when things fall apart and to celebrate the flaws and missteps of life. I liked the philosophy and eagerly decided I’d try this ancient method to bring my Leach pottery back to life with gold seams–as lovely, I hoped, as the kintsugi pottery I’d seen in my search.
So after a trip to the hardware store for epoxy and a hunt for some gold dust I’d been saving in a jar for art projects, I sat down with my Leach shards and began to mend a few fragments at a time. I found the epoxy did NOT dry in 5 minutes as the package stated and 48 hours later I was still struggling to keep pieces together. At this point I was not sure the optimistic Japanese philosophy was working. Things had fallen apart. They were still falling apart! Kind of like our recent dystopian days. Like throughout much of human history.
What is the solidifying “epoxy” we need?
As always, the answer we need seems not to be found in matter but Spirit. Do you get tired of hearing this? As humans we want to find answers in our human world for our human problems. But so often, the answers lie outside of human reasoning. They often come in the stillness that allows God to speak to us. As in Psalm 46:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof…. God is in the midst….God shall help….the God of Jacob is our refuge…. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder…. Be still and know that I am God….”
My favorite line in this Psalm is this one: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Stillness is the absence of movement. Silence is the complete absence of sound. It is in this silent stillness that we hear God and find peace, wholeness, healing. Mounting concerns and fears never get us there. We have to turn from them to what is greater than any material situation, greater than any particular bit of history. We mend by inserting the golden goodness of God into our cracks. This reminds me of a favorite song by Leonard Cohen which goes, “There’s a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.“
So whether I can repair my bowls or not, I know that beyond their beauty is a higher Source that originated beauty–and goodness, and truth, and lovingkindness–and this Source–which is our Source, too–is intact, eternal.
About the Artwork: There’s a Crack In Everything 12″ x 12,” oil on panel, $375. This painting was Inspired by Cohen’s song, Anthem, particularly this line which became my painting’s title.