Jim McClellan turns to an ancient Japanese art for hope that a broken country can be repaired, and better for it.
It’s no secret that one of the things holding America together is a phenomenon that seems to suggest the opposite: regularly breaking apart. We’re taught to push boundaries, and our history is a long trail of breakage, healing, and new opportunities made possible by the process.
Hemingway famously said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” I think that can be true for countries as well.
I lived in Japan for several years, and that’s where I first learned about “kintsugi,” which is the art of fixing broken pottery with a highly visible lacquer, often gold or silver. With kintsugi, the break stands out more after it is fixed, not less. The lines of repair are there for everyone to see, adding new contours, textures, and colors to the piece. It’s as if the item has a new set of golden veins that restore its youth and luster.
The point with kintsugi is not to conceal flaws, but rather to expose and even celebrate them for the natural part of life they are. The repair becomes not just a fix but the very thing itself, adding a unique element of beauty while endowing the object with new strength and durability.