Week 39: Kintsugi: Living in the ‘new normal’

Ceramic bowl repaired with the Kintsugi method. Public domain (https://www.lifegate.com/kintsugi)

Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing broken pottery and filling in the cracks with golden, silver, or platinum dust lacquer. The philosophy behind the idea is that we can always make something beautiful from something that is broken. It is about making the cracks a part of the object and not something to disguise, or worse, discard. Just because we are broken, we don’t belong to the dustbin.

The year 2020 has revealed many a crack in us, in our relationships, our society, our lives. It has showed us how vulnerable we are; how helpless entire nations can be when the public enemy is a microscopic organism.

Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez. Public domain (https://wallpaperaccess.com/diego-velazquez)

Like Velazquez’s Las Meninas painting, it has made us take notice of the things in the mirror, of things hiding in plain sight. Who is Velazquez painting? Is it you in the mirror? Who is that peeping from the stairwell beyond? Who is the spectator and who is the performer? We have changed and yet we are still the same. How are we going to live in this world which has been turned on its head?

Topsy turvy world of the ‘new normal’

We are like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole, wondering as we fall, as to where we are going and when this tumbling will end. But as we fall, we also notice all the mundane things on the walls of the rabbit hole like the empty orange marmalade jar. How strange and bizarre it is that we still find tiny pieces of familiarity in this incongruous world! But that is how human brains keep us alive.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 


It is the innate capacity of the brain to re-wire and shift gears and make necessary changes as circumstances change that is the reason behind our survival. We need to find growth through re-organization of our lives. It is imperative to find new maps and make new connections to make what has become the ‘new normal’, liveable.

Become the water

Since most of us have become Stay At Home parents, the pressure of work at home and work from home is showing in our dark circles and dazed expressions. We want to get away from it all, make it end, return to our gyms in the mornings and watering holes in the evenings. But what if we can’t? Do we stop living our lives? Like water, which always quietly makes its way through cracks in rocks, we need to become the water – flow through cracks and take the shape of the container.

Lateral Thinking

How, you ask? Don’t think ‘outside the box’, think that there is ‘no box’. Let’s begin by accepting that what worked yesterday, in pre-pandemic times, will not work today. Second, let’s not focus on what’s not working and look for ways to make those things that are working, work better. Third, let’s find new ways of doing what we can do. Let’s collectively try to find our centre. Is your centre about spending time outside with Nature? Well, tough luck, yes, but can you bring Nature inside your home?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Guard your time fiercely

It might sound selfish and also bit like escapism but self-preservation is our most primary instinct. The frenetic pace of life does not allow us the time to reflect on the truth that we are not indispensable. Even though it may seem like the world would collapse without us, it is certainly not true. Begin by loving our own company. This way we are armed and ready and happy in our own little corner of solitude. If we are taken by surprise, then the beauty of solitude can quickly turn into thorny loneliness.

The ‘new normal’ is teaching us to be introspective, to look at ourselves more closely and finding the cracks and filling them up with gold. It is telling us to change and make changes in the way we live. It is showing us new ways of finding meaning in our lives. The ‘new normal’? Don’t fight it. Don’t despair over it. Embrace it.  

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