I know I’m not entirely old, but in my 27 short years on earth, I’ve found one thing to be absolutely true — life exists inside of paradoxes. Foods are sweet and savory, sour and sweet. Weather is sunny and beautiful, damp and dreary. Life itself is living and dying, up and down. And in every paradox there is something to be learned. The most recent paradox I’m learning is the one that exists between suffering and success.
I think it is important to first define the two words: suffering and success. And not the Miriam-Webster Dictionary definition, that definition focuses entirely of the etymology of the word and doesn’t take life into account.
Suffering, as it pertains to success, is what a lot of people call the grind. Suffering is whatever loss you feel along the way. They’re the tiny deaths you die each time something doesn’t go the way you thought it should. It is that voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you to quit— that you’ll never make it. Suffering is what makes the success so sweet.
Success, as it pertains to suffering, is each time you get back up. It is the drive you have that tells the naysayers to suck an egg. Success is the rebirth that follows each tiny death. It is what accompanies each milestone that is met. Success is what makes the suffering worth it.
I think this paradox is materialized well in the Japanese practice of Kintsugi. Kintsugi is an art form of repairing broken ceramics with gold alloy. It is the artistic manifestation of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, or celebrating the imperfection. You see, Kintsugi has less to do with the what, and everything to do with the why… Why repair broken ceramics? Why go through such lengths to make it beautiful?
Because the imperfections tell just as much of a story as the original piece. The gold lines that now hold the ceramic together add beauty to the piece *while* strengthening it.
Kintsugi reminds us to exist in the paradox of suffering and success. Not to fight it or to ignore it but to celebrate it and to be a part of it.
Suffering is an inescapable part of existing. It is also the fortifier of most experiences.
Suffering is the gold alloy that binds our successes together. Suffering is the beauty that intricately weaves between the success of a once shattered dream. Success is the mended piece that is now decorated with suffering.
The two give each other such a deeper context. Outside of each other, suffering and success are merely events that happen. Independently, they give some things context. Together they give everything context.
So I implore you to try this:
Make a list of your successes, then list every single failure that led you to that place. Don’t do so out of spite or out of anger. Rather, do so with thanksgiving. Fondly remember the lessons you learned through suffering and don’t forget them when you experience success.
And through this exercise, going forward, you’ll remember your own gold alloy sprinkled throughout your life.