Perfectionism, a constant mental state we strive towards. An unobtainable, idealistic condition of reality. Our burden and carrot on a stick. Excellence in our personal and professional life is barely tolerable. We must move forward to the next star. For shooting at the moon is far too meager of a goal. We, the professional, the business oriented human work, day in and day out towards a state of being which does not exist since the beginning of our universe. Perfectionism can be admirable. Yet it will be the early death of us all. In our lives and in our relationships, perfectionism and its evil sister intolerance often destroys as much as drive us forward.
There is another way to strive towards your goals.
Kintsugi or “Golden Joinery” the Japanese art form of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver and other precious metals doubles as a philosophy.
In the 15th century of feudal Japan, a notable Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimas introduced the technique when a Chinese tea bowl returned from repairs riddled with staples. Looking at the ugly repairs on his precious tea bowl, the Shogun spoke with several craftsmen who came up with a better solution. Thus Kintsugi was born.
In those days, during the height of Higashiyama Culture, the tea ceremony, or Sado became a critical component of the culture. When the Shogun used a broken tea pot during a critical ceremony, it threw every member of court for a loop. It also caused many to admire and reflect upon this. After much introspection, several Zen Buddhist philosophies such as Wabi Sabi and Mushin grew further during this time. Many people began smashing their pottery on purpose, just to have golden joinery applied to it.
Wabi Sabi, the Japanese philosophy, holds tenants consisting of impermanence, suffering and emptiness. Pottery fixed to become something better in this life reflected these ideas. Even though life is temporary and we all must suffer, one can find beauty in our own flaws. We can transcend our past, our problems and become something better. It is OK not to be perfect. Our flaws can be turned into strengths. Our imperfections a beauty born of suffering.
Martial artists enter into a heightened state called, Mushin, or No Mind. One can think of the mind on overdrive where mere words cannot express the quickness of thought and action. This technique is expressed in Kintsugi as the broke pottery accepts the fate given to it. Damaged and now repaired, the pottery becomes a beautiful object, more valuable than before, because of the flaws illuminated. The repaired cracks in the pottery express strength through suffering, as it endured destruction to become something better.
No person walking this earth is perfect. We are flawed and damaged. Sometimes the damage is great. We suffer through divorces, bad break ups. Loss of jobs, unemployment. A death in the family can break the fragile relationships apart. Sickness and poor health can ravage our bodies and mind. We survive by instinct. We need to keep going. Yet we can improve ourselves.
So what is the golden joiner that can repair the cracks inside all of us?
Gathering data is a natural human instinct. From the dawn of our species we strive to sate our curiosity. It often turns into hobbies as we specialize in several aspects of knowledge. It creates a small glow within us, a satisfactory pause when we learn something new.
Understanding how and when to use knowledge takes wisdom. This skill alone differentiates us from machines (for now). Seeking out new techniques and applying them correctly takes understanding. Wisdom illuminates our knowledge and lets us know when we should use an object or knowledge we gained. Artists know the rules so they can use their wisdom in breaking them.
Empathy allows for us to feel another person’s pain. Walking in another man’s shoes helps us to understand and relate to them. We all want someone to empathize with us. But are we willing to empathize with others? Are we willing to understand people we have no common grounds with? Can we find something relatable when we empathize? Can the human condition transcend cultural barriers? I believe it can and empathy is a way to gain knowledge about other humans and grow in wisdom.
Knowledge, Wisdom and Empathy lead to the gold dust mixed with the compound used to repair ourselves. This type of love transcends all barriers and can be felt from others in your presence. Becoming a shining, flawed example of a human being is a wonder experience. Showing your flaws and how it makes you stronger is a beauty to behold.
And this is why perfection is truly overrated.
You are flawed, you are broken.
We all are. Yet we can rise above our imperfection and become something better than perfect.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in life. Don’t be afraid to fail. Never fear falling in love. For when we break, we can put ourselves back together, stronger and more precious than before.
Instead of aiming for perfection, strive towards being. Here in this moment as you read this article is all that matters. Learn to appreciate and love where you came from. Know you are an object in motion, constantly moving forward. Believe there is good and evil in every person you meet. And you can change this with a single word. Your perspective and thoughts can bring out the best in those around you.
Become something better, more beautiful, than before you were broken. Become more than a perfect piece of pottery. Be a unique, broken and flawed tea pot. With gold seams like jagged thunderbolts holding your life together. Show the world how flaws truly look on a human soul.
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