By Jennie Zioncheck
April 16, 2020
One of my favorite worldly possessions is a delicate bowl given to me by a dear friend upon return from his trip to Japan. It’s a cloud of greens and blues with lightning bolts of gold running through the center, adding to its beauty. These gilded lines hold the bowl together in a process known as Kintsugi, a centuries-old Japanese art form in which broken pottery is lovingly repaired using a resin mixed with precious metals such as gold or platinum. The result is that a damaged object, one that might have otherwise been tossed out with the trash, becomes even more beautiful and precious than it was in its original form. The cracks, and lines, and broken places are highlighted and celebrated.
Today, as I quarantine at home, distant from the people I love, doing my own small part to slow the spread of COVID-19, I find my gaze drifting to this bowl. It is impossible to exist during this global pandemic and remain unaware of the pain, hardship, and many cracks in the world right now. Cracks in our systems, in our ways of communicating, in our norms and our fundamental way of life.
In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
When this crisis is over, will we remain fractured like a shattered piece of pottery? Or will we be stronger and more beautiful from our broken places?
On our bi-weekly video chats, I have been using the What am I inheriting? tool with my 75-year old parents—also quarantined at home—to collect family stories. They take pride in telling me about my great-grandparents who survived the 1918 flu pandemic and World War I, and my grandfather who lived through the great depression and went on to fight in World War II. We each descend from generations whose stories included not only surviving but thriving after adversity. Few people make it through life unscathed, and the very act of living requires an inordinate amount of courage, resilience, and hope. I take comfort hearing how my ancestors showed courage and strength in the face of uncertainty, that it is embedded in my DNA. And the research supports that it matters. Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, found in his research that children who knew more about their family and its history demonstrated greater resilience throughout life and were better able to navigate challenges. I believe we all come from a long line of survivors in some way, shape or form.
Around the world people find themselves stepping into and navigating new roles during this pandemic. Parents have suddenly become teachers, grocery store cashiers have become essential workers, and many are facing the possibility or reality of unemployment. I joined the 21/64 team in March and find I am drawing on my own inheritance of resilience as I figure out a new role from a new place.
After this crisis passes, the world as we know it will never be the same. We can view it as broken. Or we can take the unique opportunity to reexamine what really matters. More than ever, we must rely on our fundamental principles to drive us forward: Our values. Our connection to others, our community, and the world. The legacy we want to leave behind.
I can’t think of a better place to explore these crucial issues than at 21/64.
I believe that together—just like the Kintsugi bowl—we will all find ourselves stronger at the broken places.