“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” Ernest Hemmingway
How did you feel the last time a coffee mug slipped from your hands and shattered on your kitchen floor? Probably some combination of surprise and annoyance. If it was an heirloom or a sentimental piece, you may have even felt supremely guilty as you swept up the shards.
In Japan, instead of tossing these pieces in the trash, some craftsmen practice the 500-year-old art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” which is a method of restoring a broken piece with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.
Reverance and restoration
The kintsugi method conveys a philosophy not of replacement, but of awe, reverence, and restoration. The gold-filled cracks of a once-broken item are a testament to its history.
We practice this philosophy when we see a broken object’s potential when we upcycle when we repurpose when we reincarnate an object that would otherwise likely be thrown away. As Shimoda says, “It’s one beautiful way of living, that you fix your dish by yourself.”
Society’s greatest accomplishment – Longevity. What are we going to do about it?
One thing is certain for all of us, if we are lucky – we will age. In a society that celebrates ‘anti-aging’ products and dialogue – elderhood is still considered a state of ‘brokenness.’
At age 40 we may get an ‘over-the-hill’ party, and we begin talking about getting old as though it is a curse. If you think you are ‘old and broken’, you are right. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and many people using the stereotypical language are diminishing themselves and missing out on many more years of a life well lived.
If you were born in 1900, you had a pretty good chance of dying by your 50th birthday. Today, thanks to improved health and safety, a dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th-century ranks is one of society’s greatest achievements,” notes a report from the National Institute on Aging.
Most scientists agree that there is, in fact, a limit on how long, physically, we can live: rising averages aside, no one has ever been documented as living beyond 122. Getting to about 110 is really approaching the limit of the human lifespan.
While birth rates are dropping, average life expectancy is still rising, as more and more people live past 80, 90, and even 100. The population of people demographers refer to as the “oldest old” is ballooning relative to other age groups — with no signs of slowing down.
Conscious Aging – Can we apply the concepts of kintsugi or “golden joinery?”
So, with an additional 30+ years of life, can we look at our lives more intentionally? Can we optimize our life experiences, our ‘brokenness’, and take the opportunity to explore the kintsugi philosophy to recycle our experience to create a life of awe, reverence, and restoration? The gold-filled cracks in our lives can become a testament to our history.
You are never too young to begin preparing to be your best version of yourself into your elderhood. Below are some tips to practice kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” to experience elderhood as the crescendo of your lifetime! Begin now!
- Developing a willingness to deal with life completion and overcoming the desire to stay in denial of aging.
- Coming to terms with your mortality. Yes, we are all going to die.
- Acquiring the skills of ‘golden joinery’ to gain courage and strength from the gold-filled ‘cracks’ and ‘brokenness’ of your life, realizing awe, reverence, and restoration.
- Beginning to do life repair:
- in health
- in practical matters with wills and testaments
- in relationships and between generations
- by reaching into the past and offering release and healing
- through forgiveness work with release from vindictiveness
- by finding the pearls in the anxious memories
- Doing the philosophical homework by raising questions about the purpose and the meaning of your life.
- Serving as elders to others as guides, mentors, and agents of healing and reconciliation on behalf of the planet, the nation, and the family by being wisdom keepers.
- Preparing for a serene death and afterlife.
- Doing all of this nobly in connectedness with the inner, actualized self, already realized, individuated, and complete.
To learn more, Sage-ing International is a community of elders and elders-to-be who are ready to explore new ways of aging. Beginning as a networking organization for professionals, they have expanded their focus, reaching out to everyone approaching or in the second half of life. Their vision includes teaching/learning, service, and community as three vitally important aspects of the Sage-ing journey.
About the author: Jean Garboden, Director of Education and Innovation, is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada