I took these pictures a few months ago, while visiting a local elementary school for a conference with a number of other teachers and administrators. People who know me are used to my paparazzi like tendencies so they don’t generally comment, but this time one of my favourite colleagues wondered why I was stopping to catch these particular pieces of art… “They’re nothing special!” she said. “Just wait,” I replied. “What if I write a post about feeling fragmented? They’ll be just the thing I need.”
I didn’t think much more about it at the time, but the pictures continued to interest me as I scrolled through them occasionally in my album. What was it about them that drew me in? Looking back makes me wonder if they struck a chord because they captured a feeling that I was overwhelmed by at the time… fragmented actually describes it perfectly. Most of the people I know (and probably most of you reading this now) can relate to that feeling. In our modern world we have the responsibility to do many things, often all at once, in a short time or no time at all. I don’t know anyone who has just one title or responsibility – we are all bound by the various roles our lives require. Sometimes, though, things come apart just a little…
Letting things come apart is an uncomfortable feeling. When I was working on my education degree one of the articles I remember from the reading list talked about how becoming one thing meant “un-becoming” something else. The entire process of transitioning from one thing to another is usually painful and not great looking either…
We are journeying through this life in order to learn lessons about how to grow and change with the world and others. We are not perfect (often the opposite) but we are still worthy of love and learning. In fact, we are more worthy and deserving in our imperfections. We need love more.
(Coincidentally) two bands I listen to have recently released albums named after a similar concept of unbecoming/becoming… Kintsukuroi from Hey Rosetta! (based on the Canadian east coast) and Kintsugi from Death Cab for Cutie (based on the American west coast) are both inspired by a beautiful craft – “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum… As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” I love the imagery of the beauty in the broken. The fragments are intact, and the cracks where one thing was un-becoming are embraced for their flawed imperfection, as the object is becoming something new and more beautiful for the process.
These colourful pictures made by childrens’ hands, with their shapes broken and reassembled, are representative of resilience. They are wobbly and unsure, but the original shape is still there. The new shapes, stretched as they are, are bigger. They cover more space, and are more vivid with the dark spaces contained within them. The spaces are celebrated.
With a few months between me and my initial reaction to these pictures of pieces I am beginning to see the spaces where growth has taken place, and also some places where more time and stretching is needed to change shape from one thing to another… Feeling fragmented is one stage of a journey of continual transformation. Sometimes all the pieces may come along, and sometimes one or two are left behind. Either way, time and space are great healers. As the children who made these pictures must know, glue helps. As the Japanese artisans show, shiny metallic glue is best. That way the changes and stages can be decorated and displayed with pride.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
(Leonard Cohen, Anthem)