Kintsugi: The Art of Healing the World’s Broken Pieces

I am feeling emotionally and spiritually raw.  Most people I have talked with this past week say they are afflicted with a dispiriting malaise.    As the images, stories, options and opinions regarding Israel and Gaza flood various media spaces, my psyche bounces between anger and sadness.  The anger coalesces around the sadistic dimension of the attack, the need for revenge, along with the resentment which surfaces because so many of the proposed responses to the attack on October 7 include more brutal violence.  The sadness over all this can melt into a paralyzing hopelessness; the feeling that there is nothing that can be done.  That we can only wait for the worst.

Unspeakable violence has taken place.  And we can anticipate that violence will continue.  There are admonitions from various military and foreign policy professionals that the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas follow the rules of war, which means that the violence needs to be confined within the international law protocols of proportionality, and distinctions need to be made – on the ground, between combatants and civilians.  Children need to be protected.  And everything should be done to keep other countries and factions from being drawn in.  Those protocols (along with many others) are important, and need to be followed.

Minimizing violence is preferable than wanton violence.  But there is still violence.  There will be endless arguments over what measure of violence is necessary and/or justified.  And the psyche will continue to bounce between anger and sadness. Or at least mine does.

I am discovering that there is a demarcation between anger and sadness.  Sometimes it is so faint that anger and sadness flow in and out of each other so fluidly that we end up living with emotional whiplash.  Other times the demarcation is deep – and raw, jagged and unpredictable; and anger and sadness become hostile strangers to each other.  In many ways our riven psyches reflect the brokenness of the world.

Many are asking, and I am wondering – is it possible for the world to be healed?  Violence may settle a score, but inevitably creates more scars.  Strategies fueled by anger end up keeping people separated from one another, and prolonged sadness renders people isolated from each other.  Violence ends up filling the vacuum.  And everything feels more dangerous and dispiriting.

There is a Japanese art form called kintsugi.  It involves taking broken pieces of pottery and mending the breakage with a lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.  The result is more beautiful – and often stronger, than the original bowl or pot.  The repair transforms broken shards (the lines of demarcation) into a striking – and valuable, wholeness.  (The image that introduces this post is a photograph of a kintsugi bowl.)

The world needs to engage in a cultural application of kintsugi.  To employ strategies and deploy resources that can transform the brokenness that we feel internally and can see globally — into an image of wholeness and hope.  We have the resources – prayer, diplomacy, acts of compassion.

And nonviolence.  The anger side of me reacts viscerally:  nonviolence? Are you kidding?   Nonviolence may have some purchase in the classroom, church or the sedate halls of power, but it has no place in the turmoil of war.  And the sadness side of me responds:  nonviolence is giving up or giving in.  Nothing can be done.

Nonviolence is more than a philosophical concept.  Nonviolence is a strategy.  As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his six principles of nonviolence, nonviolence involves struggle, not inaction. Struggle comes in many forms.  One way is to acknowledge that it takes time and humility to grasp the complexity of the issues; both of which are currently in short supply.  Nonviolence is passive physically but strongly active spiritually.  How can our faiths and philosophies help us to accept the dignity we all receive as God’s children, and our inalienable righs to be protected in order to pursue life?   Nonviolence seeks not to defeat or humiliate, but to create reciprocal understanding.  Its end is reconciliation. Nonviolence is directed at evil actions, not the people who commit the actions.  All histories and stories need to be honored, and collective punishment as a tactic to gain security has always failed in the long run.    Nonviolence refuses hate; it finds the neighbor in everyone.  Nonviolence refuses fatalism; it has a deep faith in the future.

Nonviolence takes work.  Lots of work, undergirded by hope and commitment.  The strategy of nonviolence is the kintsugi we need to apply to the shards created by the calamity in Israel and Gaza – and the other arenas of violence across the globe that threaten to shatter the world into broken pieces.  The cultural and spiritual kintsugi of nonviolence has the potential to heal, and to transform the ugliness — if not into beauty, then into an image and landscape we can live with.

I want to conclude with a prayer by my colleague Bishop Steven Charleston, which speaks to the crisis we face: 

      Oh God, I pray for your peace to troubled lands, in places where people fear each day, in cities or villages under threat of danger.  I pray your peace into the hearts of those who hate, into the minds of those who live in anger, of those who long for revenge.  The hot winds of war sweep over so many lives, dear God, terror and cruelty following in their wake.  I do not know what else to do, but stand here making my appeal to heaven.  Peace I pray.  Peace against all the odds, peace without compromise, peace strong and enduring, peace so children never worry as they go to sleep.

 

 

 

The Dread of the Assassination Attempt

Like many of us, the attempted assassination of Donald Trump sent my mind racing.  Who was the shooter?  Why did he do it?  Was security inadequate?  Would former President Trump be OK?  What does this mean for the election?  For Republicans?  For Democrats?  For the...

Praying for Biden and Trump

For a good stretch of my early years, prayer was a confounding exercise.  My family regularly went to church – where the congregation prayed while I dealt with itching legs from my flannel pants.  We said grace before dinner, which invariably became a contest over...

A Debate of Egos; the Need for the Soul

Last week I attended a debate watch party.  It was held in the Carthage College chapel in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the first night of the Braver Angels Convention, an annual event that brings equal numbers of red (conservative) and blue (progressive) and yellow...

The Ten Commandments: Laws or Guidelines

Last week the governor of Louisiana signed a law mandating that the Ten Commandments be displayed in public school classrooms.  In some ways I get it, in spite of the fact that like so many it challenges the constitutional separation of church and state.  The Ten...

Mistrust and Trust

It was the spring of 1970.  The United States had just announced that it was expanding the war in Vietnam by authorizing bombing campaigns in Cambodia.  Campuses across the country erupted in protest.  On May 4, four protesting students at Kent State were shot and...

Challenges to Trusting the Process

Trust the process. This was a phrase I often heard when a strategy session or a problem-solving meeting bogged down.   The group would get stuck, and in frustration someone would either suggest we scrap the whole enterprise, or would start accusing a participant of...

Ep 13 – “A Common Humanity” with Wilk Wilkinson

Wilk Wilkinson joins me to discuss his journey from political apathy to toxic political engagement, followed by the epiphany that since led him on a mission of bettering the world, one attitude at a time, by charting a course toward understanding, bridging divides, and fostering a community where wisdom prevails over discord.

Time and Space Needed for Grief and Mourning

“In war, death interrupts nothing.  Time doesn’t stop; it seems to accelerate.”  So wrote David French, in a New York Times column on May 25, 2024.  A veteran of the Iraq War, French goes on to say that in battle there is no time or space for mourning the loss of a...

Whose Land is It?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this passage from my daily reading:     “From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates,all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.   No one will be able...

Ep 12 – “The Church Cracked Open” with The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers

Canon Spellers shares her journey from being a skeptic and critic of the Church to becoming a senior leader with a deep faith and a commitment to social justice. We explore the themes of mission, evangelism, the power of genuine curiosity in bridging divides, and ongoing efforts to address systemic issues like white supremacy within the church.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!