One day I was looking at Facebook and a friend had shared an image of a broken ceramic bowl that had been mended with gold. Something about the image resonated with me--the way the bowl seemed to glow by having streams of gold threaded through it.
The technique is called "Kintsugi". It originates from Japan and is centuries old. The idea being that instead of throwing something away once it's broken, to repair it with something precious. The item is now more valuable for having been shattered and joined again.
The idea of "Kintsugi" came back to me recently when I was at Oasis--a family focused retreat designed to offer connectedness to the Earth, to Community, and to one's Spirit. There are workshops and discussions, drumming, and much laughter and singing around communal camp fires.
I don't think this happened more than in the workshop I attended titled "Songs that Move Us". It was facilitated by Peter J. Watts in which myself and several other people sat together and listened to music for two hours. Participants shared songs via media devices, and would maybe tell a story about where the song came from and what meaning it had in their life.
It was impossible for me to hear the song and look at the person sharing it and not feel a part of what the song meant to them. I would look across the room or to the person next me and see tears and it would unleash the tears from my own eyes. The same was true of laughter and exultation.
Music truly is the language of the soul and if for just a brief moment in time allows us to experience the emotions of another.
During the workshop I closed my eyes and the image of the Kintsugi bowl came back to me--and a thought came into my mind as if someone was speaking it directly to me, "How lucky are we that we are broken and cracked," said the voice. " How lucky are we that we are flawed?"
When we're born we are shielded from the pain of the world. Babies are bundled and cared for like precious jewels. Yet, as we grow it is understood we have to gain experiences in order to survive. That experience begins in the form of scrapes and bruises and then as we mature emotional pain becomes the invisible wound. These are the splinters of spirit we carry within us, and though at the time it feels as if the pain will not subside, the crack could never be filled, we find ourselves smiling. The embrace of a sister, the gift of artwork from a child, voices shared in songs of remembrance. These things are the golden currency of our souls.
The week before Oasis, a member of our community had passed on and from my computer portal in Minnesota I could feel the waves of love, loss and grief that members of my Oasis tribe were experiencing. This was a person who I and never met, but I knew how her work both in the Pagan community and on National Public Radio had influenced so many people. I speak of Margot Adler. Although I did not know her, I was grateful for the work she had done and I felt a crack in my heart for her loss. During Oasis I listened to stories and was able to pay tribute to this remarkable woman. How lucky am I to know people who were so positively affected by her friendship?
And then like all good things, Oasis came to an end. I came away with so much; I came away with my cup filled.
And so quickly it felt like it had been emptied again.
I returned to work the following Monday, and when I came home I was met with the news of Robin William's passing.
I have never grieved for a person I had never met in such a way as I have felt grief this past week. This morning I saw that one of my fellow "Mara"'s had written blog post about her emotions dealing with the loss. Mara Wilson says so much of what I have felt this week.
I have been questioning why this death has affected me so. There are obvious reasons: Robin Williams reminds me so much of my own father, who I seldom see. "Mrs. Doubtfire" was about a father and his three children all trying to navigate their way through divorce, which was exactly what I experienced growing up.
Then I realized that even though I have sincere grief over this talented artist, it is also a a trigger for me concerning loved ones I have lost to suicide. To respect their families I will not go into specifics, but as Mara Wilson talks about in her piece, the feeling of "this person will always be there, I won't loose him" only to find they have gone is an experience I have had to deal with due to suicide. The regret of not saying often enough that I cared, or tried often enough to reach out, to pick up the phone or send a letter or email is something I struggle with constantly.
I have cried this week because of the impermanence of life. I have experienced anger over the unknown. I have raged internally for my severe lack of power over what others choose to do.
And then I again return to the Kintsugi bowl.
Where there are new chips and pieces missing, the people in my life, from those I work with to those I play with, will fill those cracks. You are what is precious to me. Thank you for being part of the puzzle of my life.
So again I ask, "How lucky are we that we are broken and cracked? How lucky are we that we are flawed?"
I did not have a chance to share a song during Peter's workshop, but if I had this would be the one.
"The Puzzle" by Patchouli