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  • Writer's pictureGiacomino Nicolazzo

The Beauty In Broken Things...


THE BEAUTY IN BROKEN THINGS...

Edition 63. APRIL 2024

I love the broken things.

I see beauty in the bent, the rotting, the decayed and the shattered.

I find splendor in the things most people would find terrifying.

I think damaged things are exquisite, because I know they are just like me.

They are not ruined forever.

Things that are broken have a funny way of being fixed

and turning out better than they were.

Jordan Sarah Weatherhead


Late one afternoon, I was confronted by a somewhat odd, rather wretched looking old man standing in the middle of Piazza Maggiore in Bologna Centro. He spoke these words to me...


“Una cosa curiosa. “Non credi?”


Now I knew better than to make eye contact with a stranger or to get pulled into a conversation. Navigating the streets of Bologna, or any city in Italy in these days, without being accosted a dozen times along each block by beggars, con-artists and strangers, has become nearly impossible. If I stopped to answer this man, the next thing I could expect would be to get hit up for money or something else…


“It’s a curious thing. Don’t you think?”


I did my best to ignore him, but what I did find curious was how he seemed to know I spoke English. Then he posed yet another question to me...again in English. This one caught my attention and made me stop...


“Have you ever noticed how God seems to have a way of using broken things?”


I closed my eyes, pursed my lips and kept walking, looking in another direction. I thought to myself...


“Oh, damnit! Here we go again!”


That is how the conversation began that day. I was making my way through the city center, walking from a parking lot to a meeting with a journalist at her office on via Castiglione. We’d spoken on the phone several weeks before and she’d convinced me to come see her after expressing a desire to interview me for a local publication...


“Italians do love a good American story Gia. And yours is a very good one!”


And so, we decided this particular afternoon would be a good time for me to tell it. Her office was just a few blocks off the piazza. As usual, parking around the city was a nightmare and I was running a few minutes late. I really had no time for the old man, but something...something made me stop. Something made me engage him. I found myself answering his question...

“No. I’d never really thought about that.”

As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I wished I could have taken them back. But to my surprise, even more words followed them…


“Broken things? Tell me...how does God use broken things? And for what purpose?”


In the next few short minutes, the old man…whom I might now tell you wanted absolutely nothing from me, gave me something instead. He gave me food for thought. I have been noshing on it ever since.


“Well...think about this if you will.

It takes the broken ground to produce a farmer’s crops.

It takes the rain falling from broken clouds in the sky to nurture them.

The miller breaks the grain to give us our daily bread.

That bread is then broken to give us strength.

It is the broken alabaster box that gives us the sweet smell of perfume.

It was Peter, broken, weeping and crucified, who was given his greatest faith.

And it takes a broken heart to understand life and how fleeting it can be.”


I found myself wanting to answer him when I heard the bells of San Francesco and San Petronio ringing out. That meant it was nearly 5:00 and if I lingered, I would be late for my appointment.


I chose to go rather than to speak with the old man. Something oddly enough I quickly began to regret. So, I just smiled at him and kept walking. But within a few steps I was compelled to turn around and call back to him…


“Grazie mille. Thank you. I will think about what you’ve told me. Buona sera. Ciao.”


I hurried on way to make my 5:15 appointment. The interview took about an hour or so…maybe a bit longer. By the time I left the palazzo, dusk had come to the city. I walked through the lengthening shadows being cast by the buildings along the streets and piazze, making my way back to my car that I’d parked just outside the city walls...near Giardini Margherita.


Even after a wonderful and fruitful interview, I found myself still thinking about nothing other than what that odd, somewhat wretched old man had told me about broken things. By the time I reached my care and was getting in behind the steering wheel, it dawned on me that he had given me the answer to a problem I had been facing for weeks with my writing.

I had been struggling with a certain dialogue I was trying to write in the fourth book of Terra d’Amore. An Italian Story series…one that was taking place between young Caroline and her father. I was having difficulty finding authentic words to fill their voices.


In this particular scene, Caroline’s uncle had just passed away from cancer and her cousin Gianni, (his son), would soon be coming to live with them on Terra d’Amore. Gianni was now an orphan, his mother having died the previous year. Caroline, God bless her, was just 8 years old and having a difficult time grasping the concept of death. Well, maybe not the concept...


but the permanency!

That old man’s comment to me had inspired me, giving me insight as to how Caroline and her father’s conversation would play out. The man's wisdom, concerning broken things, led me to finding the words I had been searching for.

Let me set the scene for you...


It was late February on the farm of Terra d’Amore. The last of of the winter snow had melted and the Occhi della Madonna, the first tiny blue flowers announcing the coming of spring, dotted the lawn in front of the house.


Caroline’s uncle had passed on the morning of the day before Christmas. Gianni had come to Terra d’Amore to live with them just a week or so later. Caroline and her father were in the soggiorno talking. A fire in the fireplace warmed them as they spoke.


If I may, here is a brief excerpt from that scene...


“Papà” she asked her father. “Springtime is coming soon, and you told me once that the world comes back to life in the springtime. Will zio Denis come back to us. Will Gianni get to see his father again when spring returns to Terra d’Amore?”


“Caroline,” Papà answered with a sigh. "Yes, indeed the world does in fact find new life in the springtime. What I have taught you is the truth. But what you must also understand is that what has passed before is gone.


We say that flowers return every spring, but that is not really true. Those that wilted last year...they are gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. The flowers that thrilled you last year with their glorious colors and their sweet smells have paid a dear price to do that.


They've lived their lives…they have fulfilled their purpose. But once autumn has claimed them, they will not return. New ones will take their place. Even if the flowers grow from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to this world.


As it is for spring flowers, so it is for us. And so it is for your uncle. It breaks our hearts to see the people and the things we love and cherish fade away into nothingness. I will teach you something my own father taught me.


If something brings you peace or happiness or joy, cherish it.

It is fragile.

It will break sooner or later.


But my dear child, also never forget this...


God uses broken things to make us whole again


And now, my message to all of you this month...


These last several years have been difficult for many of us, to say the least. The world seems to be spinning and reeling out of control. If you are like Diana and me, you’ve probably gone through your fair share of unpleasant experiences....

The horror of the Covid pandemic.

The war crimes taking place in Ukraine.

The debacle that is Israel and Gaza.

The insanity foisted upon us by the Progressive agenda.


...and so much more. It has affected us all.


It is to be expected that some of us have gained some cracks or scars along the way. This can be hard to face up to, since remembering it all brings many so scary thoughts to our minds.

However, there is another way of looking at these scars and these cracks...one that can help us feel better or at least encourage us to take the steps towards healing ourselves. 

We can take inspiration from Kintsugi, a Japanese art form. It is the art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold, based on the idea that a more unique and beautiful piece of art can emerge by embracing its flaws.

Kintsugi doesn’t try to hide the broken parts or the cracks. Instead, it brings them to our attention. It illuminates them...


With gold!


This illumination adds a unique new facet to the piece of pottery and makes it stand out from other pieces. In Kintsugi, rather than discarding what is broken, one fixes it in a way that embraces its imperfections, its scars and cracks. It makes it stronger...


perhaps even more beautiful.

Learning how to mend or rebuild something is not only empowering, it also teaches us a lesson in impermanence. This is what Caroline's father was trying to teach her. This is what kintsugi does.


Kintsugi teaches us how to have compassion for our belongings and our loved ones. Quite simply...

it feels wildly satisfying to fix a broken object or relationship, instead of tossing it away

The wisdom of kintsugi encourages us to fix rather than discard, thus placing a higher value on the objects and people we bring into our lives. Kintsugi is aligned with several well-known Japanese beliefs and philosophies.


The first is known as wabi-sabi...

the acceptance of impermanence and imperfection

Impermanence and imperfection are inevitable parts of our world. Wabi-sabi encourages us to delight in those irregularities and inconsistencies rather than always striving for perfection.

Then there is the Japanese philosophy of mottainai. Mottanai teaches us to...


regret squandering

and

minimize waste.


The longer the life of our objects, the fewer objects we have to buy that use up precious resources. The longer the life of our interpersonal relationships, the deeper we can delve into them.


The final concept is what the Japanese call mushin...


a mental flow that frees us from the angst of change and allows us to easily accept fate


Practicing mushin guides us towards a reaction of mildness and quiet acceptance...


making new and better life possible


Kintsugi celebrates and honors the story of the object, its ruin and repair. Mistakes and accidents are simply a part of the experience of living. Rather than trying to restore a broken object to its original glory, kintsugi focuses on creating a newly imagined, distinctive vessel.


However, learning about and applying the kind of philosophies found in kintsugi can be difficult, especially when we are in the middle of a situation or circumstance not of our making or one that seems out of our control.


As someone who has experienced their fair share of anxiety, stress and tough times, at times I find myself insufferably pessimistic. I really have to struggle to break free of my runaway negativity and doubt. Sometimes, because doing so takes so much effort, it can be very difficult to take the steps that I know in my heart will improve my life.


I admit that the last four years have been quite difficult. For me at least. But I have also learned a valuable lesson...


it is not the end of the world if something is not fixable


Sometimes functionality or joy cannot be restored from fragments. We must not hold on to things or people that have truly run their course. Simply thank the object (or the person) for its service and discard the pieces with gratitude. 


Our scars are what make us uniquely beautiful. By embracing the perfectly-imperfect, we can use the beautiful wisdom of kintsugi to breathe new life into our oldest treasures and practice walking through our daily lives with grace and loving acceptance. It brings new meaning to the concepts of strength and courage. My father and I had a tumultuous relationship, to put it mildly. So many arguments. Too many battles. I did my best to make amends but when I got the news of his death, I wasn't sure I had been successful. I still felt as if I'd disaapointed him greatly. But let me share with you something a dear friend told me when I lost him a few years ago, during the pandemic...


The past has passed. Let it go.

It takes strength to be certain. It takes courage to have doubt.

It takes strength to fit in. It takes courage to stand out. 


The most important thing we all must realize is that we are not victims of our circumstances.


We are survivors


We are stronger for surviving what we have been through. These cracks, the ones we see as blemishes, are evidence of our strength and our bravery.


Embrace the imperfections.

Be proud of the flaws.

Wear the scars proudly.


If you made it this far to the end, I thank you for taking the time to read or listen to this month’s blog.

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C Lee McGlothlin
C Lee McGlothlin
7 days ago

"God uses broken things to make us whole again." This entire blog is so awesomely beautiful that I am marking April 2024 as a turning point in my life journey. I have spent the last week sending the blog to every broken or hurting person I could think of. Yet few have even taken the time to open the link. Does being broken mean being stuck in a mindset that won't let you go? When we see the pieces of our lives, do we forget the worth we possess and give up the hope of healing? It breaks my heart, and I need some Kintsugi to fill the cracks. If we are threatened by our brokenness, then this…


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