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Process, not outcomes.

January 3, 2022

There are countless articles and posts about how Japanese kintsugi bowls are a beautiful metaphor for life. How the bowl represents us, and we shouldn’t judge others for the obvious flaws and imperfections that arise from simply living their lives. We are encouraged to believe that our cracks, when repaired with gold or silver, give us character and let our true selves shine. 

This isn’t one of those posts.

My wife, youngest daughter and I recently tried our hands at kintsugi. The kit was a Christmas gift, an opportunity to repair three handmade bowls that had been damaged due to an unfortunate incident that arose from simply living our lives.

We started with the pieces in front of us. We each thought we had collected what we needed, but it wasn’t until we started to look closely that we saw the different ways the bowls had been damaged. Even within a bowl, large clean breaks looked like they fit back together almost seamlessly, while other parts had shattered into tiny pieces. Often it wasn’t clear how (or even whether) they would be able to be repaired. 

Our bowls were all impacted by the same event, but the damage done to each was very different.

Our bowls were all damaged, but what was needed to make each one whole again was also different.

The bowl that initially looked the most damaged had been broken into a few large pieces. The efforts to make it whole and functional again seemed to advance most quickly, leaving some envious of the progress. It didn’t become evident until later that our early attempts at repair, though well-intentioned, were clumsy and had created further problems for us. Minor errors in alignment meant that later in the process it took much more effort to get the other pieces to fit.

We each had our own approach to repairing the damage. 

We each had different ideas about the outcome we were looking for, what would be acceptable, and in what order we needed to do the work of putting it back together.

What I noticed most of all though, was that it was all too easy for me to be critical of someone else’s attempts at repair until I found myself struggling for much the same reason. 

It is not the kintsugi bowls that are a beautiful metaphor for life, it is the process that creates them.

***

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Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The Samurai Game for me was a reminder. We are used these days to second chances, with our kids, gaming and usually at work. The game reminded me to be in the moment, not expecting a second chance. Personally, I’ll bring myself to the moment, by being there with, and for, my immediate family, wider […]

Shemi Rubin (Product Development Engineer)

I have just been reflecting on the amazing success of our Year 6 and 7 Leadership retreats this year. Finding a way to engage and motivate students for two days about the qualities of leadership in a practical way is no mean feat. Keeping 60 boys engaged for that period of time is even more […]

Claire Howden (Assistant Principal-Religious Education)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

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