Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
Just about everyone I speak to these days is feeling some sort of cracking or tearing at the seams. Our internal world feels it and the outside world reflects it. Some of its profoundly beautiful and of course, some immensely heart-wrenching. Its hard to know what to think of whats to come, with an answer like: well, we’ll see being both wise and a bit frightening. In certain ways, things are better than they have ever been, hard to believe, but its true (if you look at crime rate and statistics). However, awareness and empathy are also on the rise, as outcries can be heard and seen more clearly from violent and atrocious acts of injustice. The heart begs for no more, it cries out for understanding, it cries out to be known and held. There are so many of us that want to sincerely help and yet there is a feeling helplessness too. How do we grow as individuals in that broken feeling? How do we rise and speak up, while keep our joy and aliveness alight? How can we come together even more as a collective to finally understand we are all so intricately connected?
Practices that have helped me rise out of some pretty intense anxiety this past year:
Eliminating coffee + sugar (this one has been huge)
EMDR ——> This.
My beloved therapist
My wonderful sisters
My wise partner
And we can paint it all out too. We don’t need to hide. Life is magical, it’s in its woven tapestry of the nature of Creation. Nothing goes unseen. Nothing is not held, even after life.
Some concepts that I teach my students about creativity that I love to share are below. The Japanese really understood how the nature of life and aesthetics work in IMHO.
Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō?), suffering (苦 ku?) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 kū?).
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
For Richard Powell, “[w]abi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”Buddhist author Taro Gold describes wabi-sabi as “the wisdom and beauty of imperfection.”
After centuries of incorporating artistic and Buddhist influences from China, wabi-sabi eventually evolved into a distinctly Japanese ideal. Over time, the meanings of wabi and sabi shifted to become more lighthearted and hopeful. Around 700 years ago, particularly among the Japanese nobility, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to “wisdom in natural simplicity.” In art books, it is typically defined as “flawed beauty.”
Kintsugi (金継ぎ?, きんつぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い?, きんつくろい, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiﬁcation with, [things] outside oneself.”
— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics
We can be flawed and still be beautiful. We can come back together and fill the cracks with the gold of our wisdom and love; a reference and empathy for one human family. We can ease into this, like newborns, asking and yes even demanding a better world.
6 thoughts on “What Can Come of Our Brokenness?”
Loved Leonard Cohen, his words are so meaningful just days before a new presidency begins. Thanks for reminding us.
We lost a beautiful wise light, indeed! I miss him so much.
I am hopeful of the future when I hear such wisdom coming from younger people like you Alena. This piece brought tears to my eyes for two reasons. Firstly, I had fallen down the spiral of hopelessness and defeat as I began to succumb to the stories of fear that is daily fodder from our media. Secondly, I realise that I’ve putt off any creative pursuits because of perfection issues and yet, I see here in the writings you share, how much growth and beauty exists in making “mistakes” and, evolving as a human being cannot occur otherwise. I love Taro’s Taro description of wabi-sabi as “the wisdom and beauty of imperfection.” Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing Alena. You are as talented with words as you are with paints. 🙂
What a touching comment, that means so much! I am 40 this year, so mid-life I guess. Thank you thank you. x
Thank you for this beautiful, inspiring piece.
Makes the cracks beautiful!
Perfect timing ☺
Thank you for sharing. Xo