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Grief and Kintsugi

A long time ago, I wrote about kintsugi and the Eye of Heru, and about how a central ethos intrinsic to Heru’s victory is this idea that the restored Eye, not the uninjured one, holds the most strength.

A different version of this can be found in the rituals around death.

Why is the heart the seat of intellect and moral discernment in Egyptian religion?

The heart is the unifying force of the body. The pulse reaches to the utmost extremities, the communication of life, the source and reinforcer of flow. If ma’at is that force that brings people together into communities, the heart is the seat of ma’at within the body, uniting the disparate organs, the limbs, the flesh with one pulse.

A euphemism for death in ancient texts speaks of the heart growing weary. When the heart grows weary, the pulse ceases, the body loses that which maintains its unity. This is the division, the wound.

What did the ancients do for the weary-hearted, then?

They bound the body together once more. Anup, who knows the secrets of binding and unbinding, invented the process of mummification, to replace with technology, with ritual, the mystery of the beating heart. If the body cannot be bound together from its insides, it can be bound together externally, supported, and preserved. Here is the body, here are the souls, reconnected by ritual means, since the heart has grown weary and rests.

It is not merely the body that comes undone when the heart grows weary.

Every person is the beating heart of a community. Every person nourishes a constellation of others, is the center of a universe of connection. Every person’s family extends outside their skin, much as every body extends outside the heart. And each loss rips the unifying core out of that community, risking consigning it to oblivion.


Unless we reach out, and bind ourselves together, bandage up the wounds that loss has left, and invent a new wholeness, one that can support a new conception of unity despite its weary, West-bound heart.

This past weekend I was in the company of those who were grieving, though I did not know the friend they had lost. Several commented how odd it was to forge stronger friendships in the wake of grief, and I offered this, from a theology I knew they did not share: “In my theological background, death is a fragmentation process, and what we do afterwards is gather the pieces back together and make a new whole, to heal the wound as best as can be done, to ourselves, our communities, and our beloved departed. Everything is kintsugi, in other words.”

We are in a constant process of becoming whole again, despite everything.

We are in a constant process of finding the heart.

We are in a constant process of seeking the beat that brings everything together once more.

(May Corey Alexander be remembered.)

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