Do you ever feel your Higher Power is speaking to you?
Not literally, of course. I know I’m not Moses, and I haven’t seen any burning bushes.
But my Higher Power does speak to me by making me aware to patterns in the world around me. By allowing a topic to be addressed around me enough times in quick succession that I have no choice but to see it as a sign and pay attention to it.
This phenomenon has happened to me fairly often since I came back into the program on September 28th of last year. The most recent instance of it is the concept of embracing my past and the parts about me that aren’t perfect.
Now it is quite literally and clearly stated in AA literature that through working the steps, we will come to a point where “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” That is, of course, all good and well. But I think to me, and probably to many other newcomers, the Promises have tended to go right over my head. Sure, those things sound great in theory, but they really have been just so inconceivable for me; I had absolutely no way to imagine them or grasp what they might mean. They may as well be in an entirely different language.
But I have recently heard the concept of not regretting the past (etc.) put into more than one metaphor that just clicked for me.
The first time this happened was at a church service two weeks ago. The church I have just started attending is in between pastors, so the services are led by different guests each week. This particular service was led by a singer/songwriter duo called StoweGood. They performed a song titled “Beautiful Brokenness.”
The song is based on the Japanese art of Kintsugi. “Kintsugi (金継ぎ?) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い?) (Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-etechnique. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” (Wikipedia)
Well how about that? So this concept has, of course, been around much longer than AA. It predates the Big Book by, oh, five hundred years or so. Now, this would have been a beautiful enough analogy on its own to have some meaning to me, but this concept kept coming up after that. Within a week of this church service, I was listening to the most recent episode of All Songs Considered, an NPR podcast I’d never listened to before, and they were discussing the forthcoming Death Cab for Cutie album, named… wait for it… Kintsugi.
At this point, I’m already seeing Divinity in the situation. The concept of appreciating imperfection has been one I’ve been trying to embrace for some time now. I am a perfectionist by nature, and I expect things (especially myself) to be perfect. So a few years back, I was reading the blog Soul Shelter and came across this quote from John Ruskin, an eminent “poet, artist, critic, teacher, social reformer, and early conservationist” of the Victorian age:
In all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry. All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality. All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.
I have been considering taking up songwriting… I’ve always felt some sort of tug from within me, to create. A good friend of mine is a songwriter and has agreed to sit down with me and try to put some songs together, if I send him some ideas. So at this point I had decided that this concept was striking me so strongly that I needed to express what it means to me, in my life.
But HP, He’s still knocking me over the head with this idea. Last night, at dinner, someone brought up a different metaphor for the same concept. He said, “You know, a quartz crystal? It’s got flaws in it, right? If you looked at a quartz crystal that didn’t have flaws, it would be boring looking. Those flaws, what they call imperfections, catch the light. They’re what make it interesting and beautiful.” Wow.
Today, I was sitting here trolling through the new releases on Spotify, and I see this album cover:
Again?? This is the album cover for “Second Sight” from the band Hey Rosetta!, which was originally released in October of 2014, but was not released in the US until January 27, 2015 (which is why it’s still on the new releases). (PS another weird coincidence, the NPR podcast I mentioned before? Yeah, it was also released on January 27. January 27 is also the first album-release date after the aforementioned church service…) And guess what. There’s a track on the album titled “Kintsukuroi,” which according to Wikipedia is another term for Kintsugi.
At this point, I feel it is literally impossible for me to view this as coincidence. So what am I supposed to do with this information?
In reading the Wikipedia entry for Kintsugi, I see that the philosophies surrounding it are even more in line with AA principles than I realized at first. Kinstugi can be tied to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, the idea of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, or incomplete.” Another potentially related concept is that of Mushin, roughly translated as “no mind,” a mental state “achieved when a person’s mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during…everyday life.” To illustrate the purported connection between Kintsugi and Mushin:
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiﬁcation with, [things] outside oneself.
So living in the moment. One moment (or day) at a time. Accepting things I cannot change. Striving to be free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego. Did Bill W write this?
Maybe this is intended for me as a beautiful metaphor for the program, one that can sink in more deeply than the sometimes-dry words of the literature…
What are your thoughts on Kintsugi? Beautiful brokenness? Have you had similar experiences of something that can only be described as a message from God? Am I nuts?