When to fix and fall through the inevitable fissures of life

Dalton Delan
4 min readJun 9, 2023

“Everything is broken,” according to Bob Dylan.

In the downbeat bearing of head and shoulders of many people I know, that brokenness is apparent. Between the micro and macro of our lives, from birth to aging and death, it echoes the demise of the “United” in States of America. The rending of the body and body politic exhibit themselves daily. But can we find a fixative glue?

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is an old adage with a success rate of being right half the time. Victor Frankl sought the will to live in the depths of the Holocaust. Israel rose from the ashes. It would be hard to locate much joy in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Sometimes “you break it, you bought it” surrenders to a different American dogma since Vietnam: “You break it, you lost it.” Elvis didn’t sing “Whole lotta breakin’ goin’ on.” Yet he himself was broken.

The beauty in broken things is made manifest in the Japanese art of kintsugi, which likely originated in China in the 15th century. In this process, shattered pottery is repaired with lacquer visibly dusted or mixed with silver, gold or platinum. These veins of precious metal render the surrounding pottery more beautiful than its duller roots.

The philosophy of wabi-sabi is another iteration of Japanese celebration of the imperfect or flawed. Japan’s aesthetics appreciate wear and usage, unlike our own, in which we venerate the new, the young, the flawless, the costly.

We suffer from the aspirations of a nation of great expectations. It is a midlife existential crisis when we face decrepitude and decline of democracy. We idolize tyrants, thieves and thespians. Failing to find peace in ourselves, we look to others to save or complete us.

Technical innovations pour accelerants on our days. They invade our homes and lives, overwhelm our psyches. We go to bed with the phone-brain by our side. We awaken to check its pulse again.

Lately I’ve taken to leaving the phone downstairs before retiring for the night. Then I conveniently forget to check it until I’ve at least puttered about and prepared breakfast. I cannot recommend too highly that you do the same. Rest your brain from cellular waves for at least a half-hour on either side of sleep. If you must keep your Apple iPhone polished beside you, put it in airplane mode so there are no messages or alerts through the night. Turn off your phone-brain and turn on your own mind to the sorting of dreams. Have no fear, the same stuff will be there to deal with in the morning. As Steve Forbert sings, “what slips through the cracks is just gonna go ahead and fall.”

Recently our dear friend, Audrey, visited from Atlanta after a long break over the pandemic. We mulled mortality and its discontents over fine wine, burgers and fries. We realized once again that connection is all. In our heterogenous society and grand geography as a nation, the age-old cement of community has eroded and fallen away. We are left fending for ourselves, lost in a labyrinth with no exit. We pursue an elusive butterfly. It beats its wings and tiny reverberations of the air magnify until we get the soul shakes. Our breaths tremble.

In the freefall of existence, plummeting toward the grave, we gasp and grasp for control. Often that need becomes uncontrol: I’ll have one more slice of pizza, one more Oreo. We get fat, then turn around and shame ourselves and others. To counter this, teenage girls assaulted by antisocial media develop debilitating eating disorders. We are trying to stitch and suture ourselves together, fighting our impulses, giving in to the “death-wish” described by Nietzsche.

Interventions are not always easy or successful. A friend died of organ failure due to anorexia. A relative had bariatric surgery to little avail.

Success is seldom a straight line. In small ways, we can try to inject some curative order or reordering of priorities. I try to put cookies in individual containers. Mark them by the day and treat them like one-a-day vitamins. It doesn’t always work, but it’s better than nothing. Those Girl Scout cookies need to be individually wrapped! Don’t stock ice cream in the freezer except when you have guests. It’s the little things that add up. You walk 10 blocks today. Walk 11 tomorrow. One small step.

All the kintsugi in the world won’t repair the rips in our republic. Don’t think global; act local. Do what you can to make the most of your one day at a time. You don’t need all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Just a bit of will, a dash of desperation. Leonard Cohen was one-up on Dylan: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

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Dalton Delan

Winner of three Emmy Awards, Dalton Delan pens biweekly The Unspin Room, which began August 7, 2016 in The Berkshire Eagle; it has appeared in 50+ newspapers.