persons with disability

[OPINION] Beauty in imperfection: How kintsugi can help PWDs

Jared Formalejo

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[OPINION] Beauty in imperfection: How kintsugi can help PWDs
'In a world demanding perfection, face the reality that perfection is an illusion'

It’s difficult for us to value brokenness, especially for those damaged with disability. Imagine a three-legged puppy. Regardless of how cute she is, stick her in a litter of fully-functional, anatomically complete siblings and I’m willing to bet you that she’ll be the last one to be adopted, if at all. Being able to appreciate brokenness is an uncommon quality to have, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s a completely human tendency to be attracted to what’s perfect, great, and complete — and be repulsed by what’s not. It’s not a sin to want great things. In fact, it’s essential to get ahead and achieve greatness yourself. But it takes a different level of humanity to be able to will the compassion to accept the damaged thing in front of you and see the potential and beauty in its imperfection.

Beauty in imperfection

Nothing communicates this better than the Japanese art of kintsugi, the art of repairing shattered pottery by mending it with patches of gold or silver. Kintsugi is an extension of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which values simplicity, imperfection, and accepting the transitoriness of moments. Wabi-sabi dictates that nothing is permanent, finished, or perfect. It reminds us to appreciate beauty in an imperfect world. It’s a philosophy that the chronically ill ought to strive to have so we can see the charm in our complex lives. The philosophy of wabi-sabi allows us to bend reality to see the good in our brokenness. It reminds us that in acceptance we find freedom and growth.

I’m no stranger to pessimistic thoughts. I’ve always felt incomplete and deeply flawed, having been born with hemophilia and acquiring a seizure disorder along the way. It’s a tall order for me to smile and say that things are okay. Yes, I try to smile for the people supporting me, but inside I know it’s shallow. Self-love has never been my strong suit, so it’s a constant struggle to practice the philosophy. But as I mentioned, it takes a great deal of intentionality to be able to see beyond the cracks. It’s my very existence that’s shattered — not simply a pot or bowl. And for a long time, I cursed whoever god existed whose hand slipped and dropped me prior to my conception to give me my chronic flaws.

Let go of perfection

In a world that craves perfection, perfection remains, to me, elusive. I gave myself nothing but pain and contempt searching for it. The toxic pursuit for “normality” set me out for deeper brokenness. The desire for completeness made me want to destroy the bowl altogether.

Surrender, instead, to the present moment. Let go of perfection and it will be okay — it might just take time. Perfection is unrealistic, a romantic dream we long so much to have, but of course can’t. There is calm in acknowledging you’re imperfect, and in simply being. And it’s freeing to embrace and nurture these flaws so that they can bloom into something great.

It takes time and will

It took years of experience to give me the perspectives I have now, and still I struggle to keep them. I try to reflect on my illnesses and seek what makes me strong and distinct. PWDs have a perception of reality rarely seen by anyone precisely because of their illness. They’ve dealt with things few people will ever face — giving them valuable and unique insights into the human condition. This is one of the reasons why I write about my own experiences as a PWD in my column, The”I” in Hemophilia. Illness grants one the ability to inspire and instill hope in others, which only few can do. They have the gift of giving a voice to those rendered voiceless by years of trauma and insecurity brought by their illnesses. What sets them apart in a world of advocates is their own exposure to the world of disabilities — they know it by heart.

In a world demanding perfection, face the reality that perfection is an illusion. Kintsugi teaches us to set aside perfection and strive instead to seek for excellence in our own imperfection. So find the beauty in your imperfection and share the things that make you truly unique and precious. –

Jared Formalejo is a father, husband, and person living with severe hemophilia and a seizure disorder. He aspires to raise awareness of disability issues by making known that PWDs are capable, active individuals with the capacity to succeed in many aspects of life.

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