Beauty in Brokeness

By Maxwell Reay (From Seeds November 2021)

On Mental Health Sunday (17 October), Maxwell Reay was our preacher. He spoke about the impact of social inequality worldwide on the care (or lack of it) for those living with challenging mental health.

He also showed us an image of a broken and restored bowl, and explained to us about the Japanese art of kintsugi.

Kintsugi means something like ‘golden joinery’. It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. For some, the restored item is found to be more beautiful than in its original form. The visible gold lines suggest the idea of breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Maxwell suggested that we all have to deal with some kind of mental health difficulty in our lives, and that being able to share these experiences can be helpful for others as well as for ourselves.

It also turns out that, for some who have dealt with loss, sickness, trauma, and the disruption of daily life during the Covid pandemic, the ideas and practice of kintsugi have emerged as sources of comfort. There have even been articles written in newspapers and academic journals about this.

In a short piece in the online British Medical Journal, Dr Amy Price (a medical scientist at Stanford University who lost her own husband to Covid) suggests that grief is an opportunity to offer empathy by honouring brokenness to support healing.

She writes that “kintsugi represents healing, resilience, and restoration” and that our cracks and flaws help us see ourselves more fully.

(Amy Price’s article was published on the BMJ website on 10 August 2021: