Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tikkun Olam by Kintsugi; but First, the Furnace and Flux

Sunday was the first anniversary of my brother's death, and as I began to write this post, something he once said popped into my head.  Commenting on my penchant for symbolism, he said something to the effect that I'm always trying to read meaning into things where there is none.

True enough; most of the content of this blog is a neon flashing case in point.  But my response to him then, as it would be now, was that basically, it doesn't matter if the meaning is "really there" or not; what matters, and what I enjoy, is creating that meaning, working - and playing - with it.  Symbology is fun.

Working and playing with gold as my color for the year has so far - pardon the pun - been quite rich.  Around the time that I realized 2013 was going to be gold, a Facebook friend posted about the Japanese art of kintsugi, which I had never heard of before.  It means "golden joinery" and is the practice of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold, thereby making the item more beautiful and valuable than it was originally.  

How glorious!  My metaphorically-oriented mind was off and running, and the first thing I thought of was the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam, meaning repair of the world.  In Jewish spirituality, this is seen as humanity's responsibility.  

Tikkun olam by way of kintsugi; I love this concept.  But what would such a process entail?  Obviously, one needs to first have some gold.  It has to be extracted, refined, then ground to a powder and mixed with lacquer.  

As I delved more deeply into exploring the metaphorical meanings of these processes, it became clear to me that the reason gold is so valued is because it represents pure love, pure being.  If one wants to repair the world with it, one has to find it in oneself first.  And in order to do that, one has to first trust that it is actually there to be found, then actively look for it.

I realized at that point that I tend to deny the gold in myself because I recognize that it's not pure and so I discount it altogether.  But in exploring these metaphors, I began to understand that I must value the impure gold for it to be purified.  I must "extract" it by gathering it within myself from all the "veins" where I can find little bits of it. Interestingly, I discovered that just by turning my imaginative focus more to the image of gold, feelings of joy and love were increasing me.  (And by the way, I learned in my research that the human body does actually contain tiny amounts of gold.)  

The next step is purification.  Find and extract the the impure gold, then surrender it to a 2100-degree Fahrenheit furnace and add something called flux, which causes the impurities to separate and rise to the surface where they can be poured off. The funny thing about flux is that it consists of very ordinary substances, and can actually be as simple as 100% borax.  Boring old borax, available at any corner store. 

Perhaps, then, I should value the ordinary circumstances of my daily life as the flux that catalyzes my purification.  Maybe I should also welcome the intensely challenging and painful things in life when they come because they are the fiery furnace, without which, the flux has no purpose and the gold remains impure.  And perhaps, when impurities rise to the surface, I can let them be poured off instead of clinging to them because I identify with them.  Then, with the pure gold that is left, I can repair what is broken - but only after it's ground to a powder, another wonderful metaphor for appreciating life's way of taking something that seems so solid and breaking it apart so it can become useful to the world.

I feel like all of this is happening simultaneously in me, but I can give my attention to one part of the process or another, depending on my need in the moment.  I am one piece of the broken world and the whole process is the repair.  Kintsugi, tikkun olam, the furnace, and the flux are one. 

Tamamizu Ichigen , (Japanese, 1662?-1722)
Edo period


  1. Ooh, this post excites me :) My word for this year is transmute, and ever since you mentioned that gold is your colour I have been inspired by it, and it's come into my head a few times.

    I took minute amounts of monatomic gold for a period of time several years ago. Rather expensive, but one day I would like to take it again.

    I was meditating a few years ago when I got this really strong visual of a mountain that had a big crack near the top that ran deeply into the middle of it. And then I saw gold pouring into that crack and filling it up.

    Mount Kintsugi :)

  2. Transmute! Awesome, one of my favorite words. I like "transfigure" a lot too. I often refer to collagemaking as "transfiguring the world with scissors and glue."

    What did you take monatomic gold for? That sounds really cool, and yeah - expensive. I've been looking into buying powdered gold so I can actually try my hand at kintsugi, and it's the cheapest I found it is 22 dollars for .2 grams. But then, one of the cool things about gold is that a little goes a long way.

    I love love love your Mount Kintsugi image. Did I mention that I LOVE it?! Thanks for sharing that :)

    1. Haha, I'm glad you love that image. It felt very resonant when I was writing my comment, as if it wanted to be written. I love it when that happens.

      The monoatomic gold was something my local health food shop guy had. It is meant to assist your body in developing extra spiritual insight. But then, if you read about it online, there are all sorts of weird and wonderful stories about how you shouldn't take it because it's an Illuminati-designed substance that is initially good but which ultimately stops you developing extra strands of your DNA or something. Well, sheesh, I dunno what that's all about but yeah, it's pretty expensive stuff in powder form. Tiny, tiny, tiny not-seen-with-your-eyes levels of gold.

    2. How very interesting! Funny thing - just before seeing your comment I was having a conversation about the Illuminati. Hmmm. Maybe I'll just stick with doing a shot of Goldschlager every now and then. Or sprinkling powdered gold on chocolate cupcakes.

    3. Yes, it doesn't really make me want to rush out and buy any either, really. That's really strange you were just talking about the Illuminati - although those synchronicities are happening more and more frequently lately.

      I was thinking about how 10 years ago the whole Illuminati was really just the province of conspiracy theorists but now it seems so much more accepted that there is something there. Apparently Beyonce was making Illuminati signs at her Superbowl performance.

      Life is very strange :)

      Goldschlager - that sounds very yummy :)

  3. What a gorgeous, thought-provoking post - just what I needed this morning after a week or so of big self-realization and letting go. Sharing the post now...

  4. Thanks, Deonne :) Can't wait to hear about your self-realization; we should get together soon.

  5. Wow, this is incredible! I am really intrigued by your meditation on the color gold and in finding the gold in ourselves. The way you write about the gold being refined in the furnace reminds me of the storms in our lives being vehicles for enlightenment, for awakening, for becoming more Christlike. Blessings to you!!

    1. Thank you, Jade! I'm glad this inspired you :)

  6. See more about kintsugi - can be also ordered or made to order.



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