All the Cracks We Cannot See

Anybody that knows me, knows that I love a good sale. Not the 50% off kind from Bed Bath & Beyond (meh), but the kind that takes me into people’s yards, driveways, garages, and crooked sheds. The kind of sale that leads me to small towns, villages in Japan, farmyards in Quebec, HDBs in Singapore, back roads in Thailand, dirt markets in Beijing, antique stores in Cape Cod and flea markets in Portugal. I LOVE everything about sifting through pieces of someone else’s history. I am fascinated by where an object comes from and who once cherished it. I have no clue what the newest Netflix craze is, but I’d binge-watch episodes of Antique Road Show or American Pickers every day if I could. In fact, I secretly imagine myself making a guest star appearance on both. Weird, I know.

But I never go to a sale looking for something. That seems too scripted for me. Instead, I go with a pocketful of change and a buzz of anticipation for what I might find. Some of my fondest memories are from when my Grandma and I used to go through the Friday paper, circle all the sales for Saturday morning, and plan our travel attack route together. Then, at the end of the day, we’d lay out our new-to-us treasures and marvel at our luck. Each object now coming to rest in our lives. The merging of stories.

So I’m not at all put off by cracks or chips or missing pieces. I don’t mind scuff marks, frayed edges and a bit of rust. For me, that’s what makes objects interesting. What I do look at are color, shape, and texture. Is there a vibrancy under the dust that catches my eye? Does it stand out? Is it interesting? But in second-hand culture, these nicks and bruises almost always equate to a cheaper price. The subtext here, if you’re paying attention, is that imperfection makes an object worth less.….but certainly not worthless. I believe it just needs a different spot in the world to be appreciated and worthy once again.

A Cultural Mindset

But what is most interesting to me, as I sit with people in their stories, is that this appetite for perfection has seeped insidiously into the collective social identity. Our western cultural expectation is to assess what is broken and repair it to its original state. Our Strength is so often defined by the invisibility of our imperfections. Meaning, if we can erase our scars and present a perfect whole, then we are worthy.

But the truth is that we are all broken in places. Flawed. Like the cracked teacup on the yard sale table, we try to perfectly position ourselves to fool the viewer’s eye into thinking that we are unscathed by life and time.  But this constant shifting leaves so many of us exhausted, empty and afraid of being exposed.

And changing a cultural mindset is not easy.

The Japanese have a spiritual value that seeks to find the beauty in broken or aged things. Kintsugi or gold joinery works on the premise of transformative repair. It defies our cultural expectation of perfection and instead pays homage to the cracks and crevasses by layering them in gold. The idea is not to disguise imperfection but to carefully trace the cracks and bond the broken pieces to give new life through beauty.

A dear friend of mine who practices this art form has taught me that Kintsugi is truly not about the object itself. It is about the beholder. It is a mindset that says that all things and all people are worthy. It says no matter what, I choose to see beauty in the broken. In myself and in others. Where there is pity or indifference, I will replace it with awe and respect. I will not avert my eyes when there are cracks or discard all that is imperfect. I will find a way to appreciate all people and things in their new-to-me version.

Perfection in Imperfection

So what I really want to tell you is…

Come as you are.

Cracked.

Broken.

Flawed.

Just show up.

It is not up to you to change those cracks.

It is not up to you to hide them out of existence.

See them as openings.

See them as part of the story.

See them as opportunities to trace into your life golden strands of Strength.

And more than anything, I want you to appreciate this new-to-you version.

Cherish it.

This color.

This shape.

This texture.

I promise you…it has never been seen before.