Chủ Nhật, Tháng Tư 14, 2024
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HomeSorted by levelC2 - MasteryThe Japanese art principle that teaches how to work with failure

The Japanese art principle that teaches how to work with failure

[Reading level: C2 – Mastery]

Like a favorite cup or plate, people sometimes crack. We may even break.


Obviously, we cannot and ought not throw ourselves away when this happens. Instead, we can relish the blemishes and learn to turn these scars into art – like kintsugi (金継ぎ), an ancient Japanese practice that beautifies broken pottery.


Kintsugi, or gold splicing, is a physical manifestation of resilience. Instead of discarding marred vessels, practitioners of the art repair broken items with a golden adhesive that enhances the break lines, making the piece unique. They call attention to the lines made by time and rough use; these aren’t a source of shame. This practice – also known as kintsukuroi    (金繕い), which literally means gold mending – emphasizes the beauty and utility of breaks and imperfections. It turns a problem into a plus.


Golden repair – Việc sửa chữa bằng vàng

According to art historians, kintsugi came about accidentally (which is fitting). When the 15th-century shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite tea bowl, he sent it to China for repairs and was disappointed that it came back stapled together. The metal pins were unsightly, so local craftsmen came up with a solution – they filled the crack with a golden lacquer, making the bowl more unique and valuable. This repair elevated the fallen bowl back to its place as shogun’s favorite and prompted a whole new art form.


The idea behind kintsugi and the elements it used weren’t new, however. The glue is made from the sap of the Rhus verniciflua plant, which has been employed in Asia for about 5,000 years to adhere things, initially the parts of weapons. And the concept underlying kintsukuroi was already gaining ground in Japan at the time; it stems from the wabi-sabi aesthetic philosophy, which cultivates appreciation for flaws.


In the 16th century, Japanese tea ceremony masters rebelled against the prevailing taste of luxury and opulence, instead prizing simple items marked by time and process. They celebrated irregularity, rough surfaces, asymmetry, and defects in tea ceremony implements and settings.  “These qualities often appear in the aging process or result from happenstance during the creative process … At other times, these effects are deliberately brought about by a destructive act of a tea master, such as breaking one handle of a vase,” explains philosopher Yuriko Saito, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, writing in the journal Contemporary Aesthetics.


The golden repair method also corresponds to the Japanese notions of “mottainai,” an expression of regret at waste, and “mushin,” the need to accept change. Kintsugi is the Zen Buddhist philosophy as it’s applied to physical items – emphasizing engaging with reality, the materials on hand. The shogun Yoshimasa could surely have replaced his favorite tea bowl, but he didn’t want to waste it. By making it more beautiful after it broke, the local craftspeople respected the changes that time and use wrought on the bowl, and demonstrated that these can be appreciated and even emphasized rather than trying to hide the wear and tear.


A beautiful mess – Một sự hỗn loạn tuyệt đẹp

You probably don’t expect other people to be perfect. You may in fact appreciate when people expose their vulnerabilities, show old wounds or admit errors. It’s evidence that we’re all infallible, that we heal and grow, that we survive blows to the ego or to our reputations or health and can live to tell the tale. Exposing vulnerabilities by admitting error creates intimacy and trust in relationships, and fosters forgiveness.


Still, though we’re often relieved when other are truthful, we’re afraid to expose ourselves. That’s too bad. Psychologists call this distinction “beautiful mess effect.” We see other people’s honesty about their flaws as positive, but we consider admitting to our own failures much more problematic.


According to a recent study by psychologists at the University of Mannheimin in Germany, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, this tendency stems from the fact that we understand other people’s experiences abstractly yet see our own concretely. We feel the things that happen to us viscerally and physically. What happens to others, however, functions more like an instructive tale, because the pain of failure isn’t our own and the distance gives us perspective. We all understand in theory that bad things happen. But we also feel really bad when they happen to us, and condemn ourselves.


In a series of seven tests, researchers demonstrated this self–other difference applies when subjects evaluate the effect of exposing vulnerability in various situations, including admitting errors and discussing bodily “imperfections.”


“Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me,” writes University of Houston research professor Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly, about the transformative power of exposing what we might consider weaknesses. Like the kintsugi craftspeople who repaired the shogun’s bowl with gold long ago, Brown sees imperfections as gifts to be worked with, not shames to be hidden.


The ordinary in extraordinary – Điều bình thường trong sự bất thường

It’s absurd to be embarrassed about missteps and failures in our lives because they happen to everyone, and no experience is wasted. Everything you do – good, bad, and ugly – can serve as a lesson, even if it’s one you would never want to repeat again. Indeed, errors can be the most important and effective experiences of all.


Likewise, the physical evidence of existence that accumulates over time and a life well-lived can be a source of pride rather than shame. We don’t have to try to look young and flawless, like we’re all brand-new products manufactured for Instagram. White hair, lined skin, scars, the extra pounds that show your gusto for a good meal – these don’t have to be dyed, pulled hidden, and lost. They might be seen as signs you’re doing something right, that you persist, which some philosophers argue is the meaning of life.


“Our aesthetic judgments based upon perfection and imperfection almost invariably have consequences that affect the quality of life, the social and political climate of a society, and the state of the world,” aesthetic philosopher Saito writes. When we expect everything and everyone to be perfect, including ourselves, we not only discount much of what is beautiful but we create a cruel world where resources are wasted, people’s positive qualities are overlooked in favor of their flaws, and our standards become impossibly limiting, restrictive, and unhealthy.


The kintsugi approach instead makes the most of what already is, highlights the beauty of what we do have, flaws and all, rather than leaving us eternally grasping for more, different, other, better. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains, in Japanese Zen, the practitioner sits and works with what is.


“The ordinary mind is the way,” according to the 9th century Zen master Basho. He explains, “What is ordinary mind? It is the mind in which there are no fabrications, no biased value judgments, no preferences, no time or eternity, nor dualistic thoughts such as common and sacred.”


In other words, the experiences you have, and the person you already are, suffice. You may, of course, occasionally chip and break and need repairs. And that’s fine. But reality is the best and most abundant material on the planet, available to anyone, for free, and we can all use what we already have – including our flaws – to be beautiful. After all, our cracks are what give us character.




relish /ˈrel.ɪʃ/ [C2] (v): tận hưởng

blemish /ˈblem.ɪʃ/ (n): nhược điểm, khuyết điểm

scar /skɑːr/ [B2] (n): vết sẹo

splice /splaɪs/ (v): nối

manifestation /ˌmæn.ɪ.fesˈteɪ.ʃən/ (n): biểu hiện

resilience /rɪˈzɪliəns/ (n): sự phục hồi

discard /dɪˈskɑːd/ (v): vất bỏ, loại bỏ

mar /mɑːr/ (v): làm hỏng

adhesive /ədˈhiː.sɪv/ (n): chất kết dính

mend /mend/ [B1] (v): vá, sửa

imperfection /ˌɪm.pəˈfek.ʃən/ (n): sự không hoàn hảo

accidentally /ˌæk.sɪˈden.təl.i/ (adv): một cách vô tình

shogun /ˈʃəʊ.ɡən/ (n): tướng quân, lãnh chúa quân sự ở Nhật Bản thời Mạc Phủ (1192-1867)

staple /ˈsteɪ.pəl/ (v): ghim

pin (n): cái đinh, cái ghim

unsightly /ʌnˈsaɪ (adj – formal): khó coi, xấu xí

lacquer /ˈlæk.ər/ (n): sơn mài

elevate /ˈel.ɪ.veɪt/ (v): nâng lên

prompt sb/st to do sth /prɒmpt/ (v): khiến cho ai/cái gì làm gì

sap /sæp/ (n): nhựa thông

adhere /ədˈhɪər/ (v): gắn

initially /ɪˈnɪʃ.əl.i/ [B2] (adv): ban đầu

gain ground (idiom) (v): trở nên phổ biến hơn hoặc được chấp nhận rộng rãi hơn

cultivate /ˈkʌl.tɪ.veɪt/ [C1] (v): tận dụng, sử dụng, phát triển

appreciation /əˌpriː.ʃiˈeɪ.ʃən/ [B2] (n): giá trị

flaw /flɔː/ [C2] (n): sai sót, lỗi lầm, điểm yếu

opulence /ˈɒp.jə.ləns/ (n): sự sang trọng

irregularity /ɪˌreɡ.jəˈlær.ə.ti/ (n): sự bất thường

asymmetry /ˌeɪ.sɪˈmet.rɪ/ (n): sự bất đối xứng

defect /ˈdiː.fekt/ [C1] (n): khiếm khuyết

happenstance /ˈhæp.ən.stɑːns/ (n): tình huống ngẫu nhiên (thường mạng lại điều tốt đẹp)

deliberately /dɪˈlɪb.ər.ə [B2] (adv): một cách có chủ ý

notion /ˈnəʊ.ʃən/ [C1] (n): quan niệm

on hand [C2] (adj): sẵn có

wrought /rɔːt/ (adj): được tạo ra hay làm ra một cách cẩn thận hoặc mục đích trang trí

wear and tear /ˌweər ən ˈteər/ (idiom): sự hư hại trên một món đồ trong quá trình sử dụng thông thường

expose /ɪkˈspəʊz/ (v): phơi bày

vulnerability /ˌvʌl.nər.əˈbɪl.ə.ti/ (n): điểm yếu

infallible /ɪnˈfæl.ə.bəl/ (adj): không bao giờ sai, không bao giờ mắc lỗi

blow /bləʊ/ [C2] (n): khó khăn

ego /ˈiː.ɡəʊ/ (n): bản ngã

reputation /ˌrep.jəˈteɪ.ʃən/ [B2] (n): danh tiếng

live to tell the tale (idiom): vượt qua khó khăn

intimacy /ˈɪn.tɪ.mə.si/ (n): sự thân mật

foster /ˈfɒs.tər/ (v): thúc đẩy

relieved /rɪˈliːvd/ [B2] (adj): nhẹ nhõm

abstract /ˈæb.strækt/ (adj): trừu tượng

concrete /ˈkɒŋ.kriːt/ [C1] (adj): cụ thể, rõ ràng

visceral /ˈvɪs.ər.əl/ (adj): thuộc về tinh thần

condemn /kənˈdem/ [C2] (v): lên án

courage /ˈkʌr.ɪdʒ/ [B2] (n): sự dũng cảm

inadequacy /ɪˈnæd.ɪ.kwə.si/ (n): sự không đầy đủ

absurd /əbˈsɜːd/ [B2] (adj): ngớ ngẩn

misstep /mɪsˈstep/ (n): sai lầm

scrap /skræp/ (n): mảnh vỡ

patch sth/sb up /pætʃ/ (v): sửa chữa

resourcefulness /rɪˈzɔː.sfəl.nəs/ (n): sự tháo vát

accumulate /əˈkjuː.mjə.leɪt/ [C2] (v): tích lũy, tích góp

flawless /ˈflɔː.ləs/ [C2] (adj): hoàn mỹ, không tì vết

gusto/ˈɡʌs.təʊ/ (n): sự hứng thú với một hoạt động nào đó

persist /pəˈsɪst/ [C2] (v): tồn tại

aesthetic /esˈθet.ɪk/ (adj): thuộc về thẩm mĩ

invariable /ɪnˈveə.ri.ə.bəl/ (adj): cố định, bất biến

overlook /ˌəʊ.vəˈlʊk/ [C2] (v): bỏ qua

in favor of sth (pre): vì, có lợi cho cái gì

eternal /ɪˈtɜː.nəl/ (adj): vĩnh cửu

eternity /ɪˈtɜː.nə.ti/ (n): sự vĩnh cửu

grasp /ɡrɑːsp/ [C1] (v): nắm

ordinary /ˈɔː.dən.əri/ [B1] (adj): bình thường, thông thường

fabrication /ˈfæb.rɪ.keɪ. ʃən/ (n): sự thêu dệt

biased /ˈbaɪ.əst/ [C1] (adj): thiên vị

dualistic thought (n): tư duy nhị nguyên (hay nhị nguyên luận) – một học thuyết thừa nhận sự tồn tại độc lập của hai thực thể và theo đó có sự tách biệt giữa cái thiện và cái ác, cái có trước cái có sau

sacred /ˈseɪ.krɪd/ [C1] (adj): thiêng liêng

suffice /səˈfaɪs/ (v): đủ

chip /tʃɪp/ (v): nứt, vỡ


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