made holy whole

It was singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, in his song “Anthem,”
who wrote: “There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
Powerful image I appreciate.
Certainly resonates
with so many of our faith images and affirmations.
These days though, I have been thinking,
it’s more than that—or other than that.

A friend was invited to participate
in the American Craft Council Show here in Baltimore.
After visiting with her at her exhibit,
I took some time
just to browse
through the rather amazing collection of craft.

I particularly enjoyed the wood work.
One exhibit had a display of wooden bowls
that had been turned while the wood was still green enough
for them to warp and crack as they dried.
They were then finished
so that the warping created an irregular wave
within the symmetry of the turning,
and the cracks were all filled
with what looked to be
some kind of a turquoise resin—
bright and colorful against the grains of the woods.

I was reminded of kintsugi
the Japanese art
of fixing broken pottery
with a gold-imbued adhesive resin.

The story is told of a fifteenth century shogun,
who sent a broken Chinese bowl back to China to be fixed.
When it was returned—
restored with big, ugly, metal staples,
he turned to Japanese craftsmen
demanding they find a way to make the broken beautiful.
And they did (with gold dust in that adhesive resin)—
so well, that it is said,
more than a few proud owners
of precious and beautiful ceramics
shattered them intentionally,
that they might be even more beautifully mended.

So it’s not just that light comes through the cracks,
as rich an image as that is,
but more that cracks allow
for the introduction of the Other—
the inclusion of the Different—
the irregular warp, the color against the grain,
the gold against the lacquer,
and the asymmetrical lines of the broken
in the perfect symmetry of what was not—
that which cannot be designed
added to what was so carefully designed.

This winter’s not been good
for our neighborhood streets.
We bump our way through potholes
trying to dodge as many as we can.
And intermittent cracks run the length of most streets.
But the other morning,
against the wet grey of the streets,
in the snowfall,
all the cracks and holes filled
in a finely traced
network of white
veins and irregular shapes.
Within the very down-to-earth,
gift from the heavens—
the Other, the Different,
and it was not just beautiful;
it was magical.

It is so much easier to affirm, in the abstract,
what insights and lessons there are to be had
in the hard turn from the inanimate
to the personal.
But when it’s our vulnerabilities—
our wounds and our brokennesses—our tears—
that might benefit
from the presence of the Other,
it is, in deed, a hard turn to make—
to not deny—to not ignore the broken—
not to emphasize it either,
but the made whole again.

And it is precisely as such that we gather,
a communion of the broken made whole again—
more beautiful than ever we were
in claiming the fullness of our story
and the Otherness that makes us now holy whole.


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