Kintsugi, literally “golden joinery,” is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. If a piece of pottery breaks, a Kintsugi artist uses a gold lacquer to reattach the pieces and highlight the cracks. Kintsugi is an embracing of breakage. And that’s what this SIX at 6 is all about…
The Salty Shark
The iconic POV scenes in Jaws weren’t part of the script. According to the script, the mechanical shark, “Bruce,” was supposed to get way more screen time. But Bruce was built for and tested in a North Hollywood fresh water tank. Oops: Jaws was scheduled to be the first major motion picture to be shot in the Atlantic Ocean. The first time Bruce got in the saltwater, Bruce broke. Bruce’s electrical substructure dissipated. So director Steven Spielberg had to film the movie without his main character. Which, he said, “torqued up the suspension of the movie…Rather than seeing the shark every scene, I played a lot of the fear from the people in the water, from seeing their legs kicking, from the point of view of the camera moving along the surface of the water. That’s what turned the movie into more of an exercise in suspense than just a horror film.” So, Spielberg is asked, if you had the shark when you wanted it, you probably would have had a different movie? “I probably would have had a movie that wouldn’t have been as successful,” Spielberg said. “I think the film would have made half the money had the shark worked.”
Mamba Takes Up Tap
In Game 2 of the 2000 NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant went down with a sprained ankle. It was “the worst sprained ankle of my career,” Kobe writes in The Mamba Mentality. “I realized at that point that I needed to be proactive about strengthening my ankles.” So Kobe did some research and discovered that tap dancing was one of the best ways to build ankle strength. He found a studio and during that offseason following the sprain, he said he did more tap dancing than hooping. “I worked on it all of that summer and benefited for the rest of my career.”
The Accidental President
In the second grade, Harry Truman came down with diphtheria—a rare bacterial infection that paralyzed his arms and legs. He was helplessly bedridden for about a year. “That’s when he started reading,” Truman’s sister said. “He couldn’t do anything else and he couldn’t get up without help, and so he’d lie on the floor and put the books down on the floor in front of him and read the book that way. That was where he really started liking to read.” A.J. Baime writes in The Accidental President, “Harry had begun his political education, without knowing it.” His mother bought him a four-book set called Heroes of History. “I spent most of my time reading those books,” he said. And in the 1950s, after his presidency, he would reflect, “Readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history, are preparing themselves for leadership. Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers.”
Mr. I’s Whole New World
In 1986, a painter named Mr. I was knocked unconscious in a car accident. When he woke up, Mr. I was colorblind. Somehow, his color-responding cells were suddenly gone. Mr. I’s artistic sensibilities, his creative expression, his identity—his life really—had hinged on his unique ability to perceive color. With that ability suddenly taken from him, Mr. I fell into an “almost suicidal depression.” Then he had a surreal experience. He was driving to his studio one morning and in the distance, the sun was rising. “Had anyone,” he thought, “ever seen a sunrise in this way before?” That thought got him excited. When he got to his studio, Mr. I painted his first black-and-white painting, Nuclear Sunrise. Then he thought, what else can I see that no one else can? So he left his studio, and by this point, it was nighttime. “My vision,” he realized, “was that of an eagle—I can see a worm wriggling a block away. The sharpness of focus is incredible…I can read license plates at night from four blocks away.” Since his world was no longer cluttered with color, Mr. I could see textures, shades, shapes, and silhouettes with unbelievable precision. And this ability to see “a whole new world” ushered in the most productive and celebrated phase of his artistic career.
The Seinfeld Question
Jerry Seinfeld likes to say, “I’m never not working on material. Every second of my existence, I am thinking, ‘What can I do with that?’” When your pottery breaks, your shark malfunctions, your ankle sprains, your bedridden or colorblind—think, what can I do with that?