whole: day 7

There is a crack in everything God has made.

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I am moved by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, both for its own sake, and as a profound spiritual metaphor.  Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken teaware, by reassembling the ceramic pieces in such a way that the broken/repaired/remade piece is perceived as being more beautiful, and as having even more value, than the original.  As the artist Makoto Fujimura explains, technically, the pieces are reassembled using the ‘Urushi Japan lacquer technique’, then gold gilding is added to the filled cracks. Symbolically, spiritually, this technique is performed as an act of compassion towards the pot.  Mending it reminds the mender, everything is gift; whilst the mended object re-presents beauty through brokenness.  The Japanese kin stands for ‘gold’ and tsugi means ‘to reconnect’, but ‘tsugi also has, significantly, connotations of “connecting to the next generation.”’ (Fujimura, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (43-4))

Whether of not I believe I am ‘broken’ because a religious creed tells me I am ‘sinful’, what I do believe is that the Christ in whom Christians believe came not to ‘fix’ me, nor even to ‘restore’ me; that Christ came to ‘make’ me into the whole Kate.  What is staggering then, is either why God would bother; or why the making of me involves using the most costly materials of the Godself: the gold of Grace.

re/connect

Yet I do not treat myself as a valuable object.  I do not look for how God has seamed the Godself into me; nor do I look for the beauty of the Kintsugi Christ in others.  

Now I write that sentence, I cannot for the life of me imagine why not.

But I do wonder whether my lack of appreciation for where God has been at work reseaming what humanity has broken apart In the wider world, reflects my blindness towards the places where God has polished the beauty of holiness out the dirt of my own wounds.

I lack a sense of awe for all the signs of the Kintsugi Christ at work, making in the world around me, which I miss recognising for what they are.  

overwhelmed, transfixed, 

boundaries melt away, 

absorb, accommodate, 

self-transcendent

Perhaps my experience just reflects what psychologists are beginning to recognise as ‘awe-deprivation’ affecting large parts of human society.*  In her book Positivity Barbara Frederickson defines awe like this:

[A]we happens when you come across goodness on a grand scale. You literally feel overwhelmed by greatness. By comparison, you feel small and humble. Awe makes you stop in your tracks. You are momentarily transfixed. Boundaries melt away and you feel part of something larger than yourself. Mentally, you’re challenged to absorb and accommodate the sheer scale of what you’ve encountered… Although a form of positivity, awe at times sits so close to the edge of safety that we get a whiff of negativity as well. Awe mixes with fear… Awe, like gratitude and inspiration, is a self-transcendent emotion.

(cited in https://thequestforagoodlife.com/2016/10/31/7-reasons-for-a-more-awesome-life/)

If I risk beginning to look outside myself for the signs of God’s making in my world, I will become aware I am part of the larger story of God.  If I risk beginning to look inside myself for signs of the acts of making the Kintsugi Christ loves to perform, then the sense of my own brokenness may begin to fall away and be replaced with awe and gratitude and praise.

Queer people of faith are ripped apart in all directions.  But it is in the delicate art of re-seaming these wounds that transcendence abounds.

Amrou, ‘The Queer Prophet’, from The Book of Queer Prophets (11)

and https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/24/opinion/sunday/why-do-we-experience-awe.html

seaming in the Godself. (iPhone image)

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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