The allegory of the broken cereal bowl
The following post is based on a true event. However, some dialogue and the sudden appearance of a 15th century Kintsugi artist in my kitchen were invented. This invention was necessary to warm my spirit and shift my narrow perspective on a cold January morning when my mug brimmed with self-pity.
“Dad, I’m starving,” Chase announces.
“You just had bacon and eggs.”
“But I’m still hungry. Can I have ice cream?”
“It’s 10 o’clock in the morning.”
“No. Have another piece of bacon.”
“Can I have some cereal?”
As Chase pulls down a bowl from the kitchen cabinet, he knocks another bowl off the shelf and the bowl smashes in big ceramic triangles on the kitchen counter.
“Oops. Maybe we can glue it back together.”
“It’s broken. Let’s clean it up and throw it out.”
“Ok. But can I eat my cereal first?”
“But I’m starving.”
In her book, Keep Moving, poet Maggie Smith introduced me to Kintsugi, which is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery–sealing the cracks, dusting the cracks with gold powder, and hence beautifying the cracks. Kintsugi literally means the, “golden repair.”
I’m not a Kintsugi artist. I’m a dad responsible for buying my kids bowls to fill with Fruit Loops. So I stand in my kitchen, hands on my hips, and sigh. Yet if a Kintsugi artist walked into my bacon scented kitchen on a cold American morning they might see the broken bowl as an opportunity.
The Kintsugi artist might say something like, “Greetings. I’m here to show you this bowl can be repaired.”
And I might say, “Really?”
“Oh yes. In fact, when repaired, this bowl with all its imperfections will be more beautiful than before.”
“But I can just throw it out.”
“Hang on Chase, I’m talking to the 15th century Kintsugi artist that’s in our kitchen.”
“But I’m starving.”
“Get a new bowl and have some cereal.”
“Chase,” the Kintsugi artist says, “if you’re patient, I can repair the broken bowl.”
Chase turns and looks at me. “Dad, who…?”
“I’m a Kintsugi artist from the 15th century. I mend broken things. I find beauty and strength and value in brokenness. And I’m here to teach your father broken objects, like this bowl, can be made whole again. If you’re patient. If you have the right perspective. You’ll see. I’ll repair the broken bowl and it will be more beautiful than it was before.”
“Hmm…how long will that take?” Chase asks.
The Kintsugi artist moves to the counter picks up a piece of the broken bowl and holds it up to the recessed kitchen light. “Is this bowl from Bed, Bath, and Beyond?”
“Yes,” I reply.
“It will take five days to repair.”
“I’ll just get a new bowl,” Chase says.
The Kintsugi artist and I watch, listen to the Fruit Loops tinkle in a new bowl. The gurgle of poured milk. The spoon diving head first into a white sea of puffed corn loops and refined sugar. Holding the bowl with two hands like a grail, Chase skirts out of the kitchen.
“Seriously, you don’t need to repair the bowl. We just got a Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupon in the mail. 20% off. I can just pick up a new bowl tomorrow.”
The Kintsugi artist smiles, “You’re not seeing the opportunity here. You must shift your perspective. Breaks transform an object into something completely unique. Unlike anything else that exists in the universe. Honor the imperfections. Value the imperfections. Highlight the imperfections. And let the imperfections tell the story.”
Chase crunches and slurps in the living room.
I lean against the counter. “Is this really about the bowl?”
“Is this an allegory? Is the bowl a metaphor for life?”
“Yes. And yes.”
I nod my head, offer the Kintsugi a plate of left over bacon. He nods and takes a strip. “Do you always appear whenever something breaks to teach a life lesson?” I ask.
“Only when there’s extra bacon.”
Again, I want to welcome everyone who subscribed through the Book Funnel promotion. I hope my silly, dad brain brings you insight, comfort, and humor each Friday.
Also through Book Funnel, I’ve teamed up with some awesome authors who, for a limited time, are giving away their eBooks for FREE! Please checkout the link below and help emerging authors get discovered.
For those in the Philadelphia Area: A limited number of signed copies of Bedtime Stories for the Living are now on sale at Commonplace Reader in Yardley, Pennsylvania. The Commonplace Reader is a cozy local bookstore with a wide selection of books, super nice employees, and occasional visits from 15th century Kintsugi artists.
Photo of the Week:
This is one of my favorite photos. I love it’s Betty Crocker defiance. My friend, Deb Dauer, made this cake and shared this photo with me in 2017. She decided to bake and decorate this cake after reading my post, Why I Celebrate My Worst Day. Deb died April 4, 2018 from complications caused by ALS. I thought this photo complimented this week’s post well. Though we might break and our stories might be tragic, our stories need to be decorated and shared with others. Not in a self-pitying kind-of-way. But in praise of the human spirit kind-of-way. Like fresh chocolate cake, this picture satisfies my often feeble soul. I hope it satisfies yours.
If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at email@example.com. Thanks!
This Valentine’s Day, give Bedtime Stories for the Living to all the people you love or like or simply tolerate in your life.
If you happen to read BSFL, I would love an Amazon review! Due to some Jeff Bezos concocted algorithm, more book reviews lead to greater exposure. And greater exposure equates to higher book sales and as I wrote in BSFL, “college for three ain’t free.”
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently reading: Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, and a former award-winning high school English teacher. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a beer with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com