In Japan, as you may know, one of the many venerated cultural traditions is the tea ceremony. For centuries, there have been tea masters who perform the tea ceremony to visualize the invisible, as a spiritual and artistic practice. When precious tea bowls break, the families of tea masters will often keep the broken bowls for generations and later have them mended by artisans who use a lavish technique known as Kintsugi. Kintsugi masters mend tea bowls with Japan lacquer and gold. A bowl mended with gold is more valuable than the original tea bowl was before it broke. The Kintsugi tradition is linked to Sen no Rikyu, the 16th-century tea master who defined the Japanese aesthetic — but Kintsugi also offers us a vision for our times in America.
The Japanese word Kin means “gold,” and Tsugi means “mend,” but Tsugi also means “to link the generations together.” I offered this 17th-century Kintsugi bowl to the students of Columbine — remembering also Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech and Newtown, and countless other schools — remembering 187,000 students of the world. This Kintsugi bowl has been broken, and mended, but in the process it also has become a New Creation. A Kintsugi master would behold the fragments of a broken bowl for a long time before mending it.