There are so many messages swirling around that we are whole and perfect already without needing to do anything, without needing to change. There are also messages abounding that we are broken and imperfect, and that we have a great deal of work to do to heal. These seemingly contradictory messages suggest a paradox: that we are already whole even as we are in process. We are whole and we are in need of healing. We are perfect and yet we make mistakes.
Kintsugi, the Japanese art of restoring ceramics with gold alloy as shown in this beautiful bowl, may offer some insight into the paradox of wholeness. Kintsugi celebrates the strength and beauty of imperfection. Broken ceramic is reattached with gold, resulting in a design that has come to be seen as an art form. The piece is also strengthened through the process.
This paradox of perfection and imperfection, of wholeness and brokenness, reminds me of the conversations we have about the first Unitarian Universalist principle of inherent worth and dignity of all people. Are we inherently good? How can that be when we see the capacity for evil, destruction, and violence in the world? How can anyone who does horrific things have "inherent" worth, we might ask? And yet, at the same time, it seems clear that among the greatest harms caused is our failure to honor human worth and dignity and to treat people with contempt and disregard.
In both cases, our affirmation of wholeness and inherent worth, we may benefit from shifting our attention just a little--to focusing on wholeness not so much as an absolute state but as possibility. What if we listened more carefully to the soul? There we can discover our truest selves and our deepest, abiding connection to each other. And when we fail, the art of Kintsugi can offer us hope for restoration, that out of brokenness we can recreate the world.