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"Kintsugi" the mended tea bowl

Guest CharlieFPG

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Guest CharlieFPG

"On a journey through southern Japan, Sen No Rikyuu, the great master of the Tea Ceremony and proponent of Wabi Sabi was once invited to a dinner by a host who thought he would be impressed by an elaborate and expensive antique tea jar that he had bought from China.


However Rikyu didn’t even seem to notice this item and instead spent his time chatting and admiring a branch swaying in the breeze outside. In despair at this lack of interest, once Rikyu had left, the devastated host smashed the jar to pieces and retired to his room.


But the other guests more wisely gathered the fragments and stuck them together through kintsugi. When Rikyu next came to visit, the philosopher turned to the repaired jar and, with a knowing smile, exclaimed: ‘Now it is magnificent’."


Kintsugi, which essentially means 'Join with Gold' is an art dated from the Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573). The then Shogun of Japan Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) broke his favorite tea bowl and, distraught, sent it to be repaired in China. But on its return, he was horrified by the metal staples that had been used to join the broken pieces; he then charged his craftsmen with devising a more appropriate solution. What they came up with was a method that didn’t disguise the damage, the result is a piece that is artistic by itself.


Kintsugi is part of the Zen Buddhism and the Wabi Sabi philosophy which focuses on the beauty of impermanence and imperfection, of minimalism and simplicity.


Today I would like to write about how this mindset can help with relationships. And for the sake of argument, let us assume we are interested in keeping a monogamous relationship with mutual sexual and affective exclusivity.


In this life, we tend to idealize greatly our relationships, our partners. We set high or very specific expectations on how these relationships will work and how out partner should behave. Our fantasies tell us what we should seek to fulfill them, but they hardly become as we imagined. In time, each of our fantasies and expectations start to adjust to the less glamorous reality.

We are all flawed as individuals, in ways we are not often aware of. But this is not to mean we do not deserve love. The fact that we are flawed does not allow us to look down on other people either. Perfect or ideal partners or relationships do not exist.


This is something that we might know rationally, but until we experience the difference between our expectations and the reality we don’t really understand this. Until such hardship we don’t understand how wrong we are about certain people, subjects and most important, how wrong we are about our idea of love.


We are all cracked and ridden with failure. Relationships will suffer tension and meet difficulties; the tea bowl will fall to the floor and break.


Of course, the tea bowl does not need to be discarded right away. In the same way problems on a relationship are responsibility of both partners, so is mending the tea bowl. We should come to terms, find middle-ground. Both should always have the will to resolve all issues and strive to be a better partner.


“A fair bargain leaves both sides unhappy.”

― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons


Our relationships might crack, and with mutual dedication and effort we can turn it into something beautiful, full of history and value.

But we might ask what use we have for a tea bowl that constantly falls and breaks? with small fragments getting lost on every accident. How many times can you mend a relationship?


That is up to each one of us to answer. Depending on the reasons we choose a specific individual as our partner and why we decide to share intimacy (both physical and emotional) with them. What I expected to convey is the importance of doing our best to keep our relationships in these times of ‘liquid love’ as Bauman wrote.









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