Broken Beauty


The images I'm sharing with you have something in common. They're beautiful, but that’s not all!

They're all under the title “Broken Beauty”

This reasoning is obvious for the Kintsugi Bowl. It is about creating something beautiful out of a broken thing.

The Legend of Kintsugi

A Japanese legend tells the story of a mighty shogun warrior who broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it away for repairs. When he received it back, the bowl was held together by unsightly metal staples. Although he could still use it, the shogun was disappointed. Still hoping to restore his beloved bowl to its former beauty, he asked a craftsman to find a more elegant solution. 

The craftsman wanted to try a new technique, something that would add to the beauty of the bowl as well as repair it. So, he mended every crack in the bowl with a lacquer resin mixed with gold. When the tea bowl was returned to the shogun, there were streaks of gold running through it, telling its story, and—the warrior thought—adding to its value and beauty. This method of repair became known as kintsugi. 

Kintsugi, which roughly translates to “golden joinery,” is the Japanese philosophy that the value of an object is not in its beauty, but in its imperfections, and that these imperfections are something to celebrate, not hide.

Want to beautify your broken china this way? Just mix epoxy and golden mica powder and apply!

As Ernest Hemingway expresses it so well:

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Or as Leonard Cohen says it so beautifully: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

The same way, the incredible peonies need a cool period in winter, for dormancy, ensuring their buds will open to grow stems and flowers in spring. 

I would like to put that in parallel with all of us in this earthly life.

Sufferings and hardships are an unavoidable part of physical life and can be assets for personal and communal spiritual growth and lead to a happier existence.

All this brings to my mind the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha:

"The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow"

"The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most." 

"Through suffering he will attain to an eternal happiness which nothing can take from him. The apostles of Christ suffered: they attained eternal happiness." 

"To attain eternal happiness one must suffer. He who has reached the state of self-sacrifice has true joy. Temporal joy will vanish." 

(Paris Talks: Abdu'l-Bahá in 1911-1912, London Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1979. pp.178-179)

Understanding the wisdom of pain

To me it is not about welcoming or provoking suffering and pain to feel happy but it’s rather about understanding the wisdom of pain and sufferings, that we all go through at different degrees in this world, and the role they play in our spiritual growth. 

“Suffering, although an inescapable reality, can nevertheless be utilized as a means for the attainment of happiness.” (Shoghi Effendi-Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 280)

“Failure, tests and trials, if we use them correctly, can become the means of purifying our spirit, strengthening our characters, and enable us to rise to greater heights of service.” (Shoghi Effendi, December 14, 1941, Living the Life)

“Seek ye divine happiness through the hardships and sorrows of this physical world, and behold spiritual well-being in the struggles of this fleeting existence. Distil sugar and honey from the bitter poison of suffering. Recognize the caress of divine favour in the arrows of misfortune.” (Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 439)

Being of service to others

Pursuing physical happiness as the main object of our lives can eventually only bring about frustrations and disappointments. By pursuing spiritual happiness instead, and focusing our efforts on service to others and acquiring spiritual qualities, we will be showered by countless blessings in our lives.

Also, sufferings help us have more empathy in our lives and therewith understand our fellow men better and be of better service to humanity.

“And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.” (Abdu'l Baha. The Secret of Divine Civilization).

Understanding the purpose of life

Sufferings like every other aspect of life should be understood in the context of the ‘purpose of life’. If there were no Creator, if humans were simply chance products of a thermodynamic system, as many in the world today assert, there would be no purpose in life. Each individual human being would represent the temporary material existence of a conscious animal trying to move through his or her brief life with as much pleasure and as little pain and suffering as possible.

Therefore only in relation to the Creator, and the purpose which the Creator has fixed for His creatures, that human existence has any meaning.

Baha’u’llah, the Messenger of God for today, testifieth to this reality:

“Know thou that all men have been created in the nature made by God, the Guardian, the Self-Subsisting. Unto each one hath been prescribed a pre-ordained measure, as decreed in God's mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth.” (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 149)

So I believe that we should draw on the power of spiritual forces in times of difficulties, as God’s Messengers invite us to:

"Armed with the power of Thy name nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world's afflictions can in no wise alarm me." Baha’u’llah

“Be thou strong and firm. Be thou resolute and steadfast. When a tree is firmly rooted it will bear fruit. The trials of God are many, but if man remains firm and steadfast, the test itself is a stepping stone for the progress of humanity”. (Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, vol.10, no.19, p.3)

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