There is a type of Japanese pottery art called kintsugi (きんつぎ), which translates to “golden joinery”. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery by filling the cracks with lacquer (treated tree sap commonly used to decorate pottery) that has been dusted with gold or silver powder. This gives the pottery a distinct look as the pattern of cracks are always random and unique.
Kintsugi is not only an art, but a philosophy. When something is broken, the common practice is to repair it in a way to hide the fact that it was ever damaged. Kintsugi takes the opposite approach by directly incorporating the break into the identity of the pottery.
It follows the Buddhist principle of impermanence and imperfection – understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. Instead of hiding the damage or throwing the pieces out altogether, kintsugi can produce something greater out of the pieces than its original form.
Nothing is constant in life. We are not perfect and cannot remain unflawed. Life constantly knocks us down, leaving us with scars. But when you get back up, you have two choices: to pretend you were never hurt and hide the pieces away, or to embrace that you are flawed but choose to show to the world how you mended yourself to become even more beautiful.
What makes us “us”? This is a question that every person on Earth would have asked (or constantly asking) themselves at some point in their lives. We seem to be gripped by an instinct to be unique – to not only discover our identity but to express it to the world.
Our identity is manifested through how we interact with the world. Some people express themselves visually – colourful hair, a token accessory they always wear or a general “look”. Some people opt to express their uniqueness through what they say – such as having catch-phrases or being the witty, funny guy.
However, by far the most common way people show their identity is through their mannerisms – specifically those we display consciously. For example, some common traits people openly show are “being a hugger”, “always smiling” or “never swearing”. It is almost as if we set up intricate sets of rules for ourselves so that we act in a way that is predictable by people who know us well – a persona code, if you will.
This becomes interesting when the expected behaviour is not necessarily positive, such as when your friend is acting in a way that irks you, like saying something stupid or being overly affectionate. Well, it could be that they are purposefully doing it as per their persona code, knowing that it may not be received well. This seems illogical – why would you act in a way that hurts your image?
This is because our “trademark” – what makes us “us” – is a complex combination of our past experiences, present behaviour and our choices for the future. Due to this complexity, it is impossible to be a “perfect person”. So perhaps the reason that we cling to our mannerisms – whether they are good or bad – is that we would rather be a perfect “me” than a perfect person.