I returned from the Families in Global Transition conference in Bangkok exactly three weeks ago today. It was the 21st year of this amazing conference, which, only last week won the Relocate Awards trophy for Excellence in Family and Employee Support – and deservedly so. This year I was chosen to be the opening keynote speaker. Yes, me! Knowing what an honour and a challenge this was, I put my heart and soul into that presentation. I had the responsibility of setting the tone for the whole three-day event and, knowing that the audience would be predominantly made up of newcomers, a very large responsibility that was. I knew I had to come up with something memorable and meaningful and had been asked to speak on the subject of Connect.
It was back in January that I decided my goal was to devise something that would encourage people to share their stories at the conference, knowing as I do, that sharing stories is a great way to connect with people. To do this I needed a metaphor. This was when I came up with the idea of the kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of mending broken porcelain with golden glue so that the piece would then be regarded as more beautiful, more valuable and stronger than it was before. In my mind I could envisage that the pieces of the jar could represent our stories and the golden glue could represent the sharing of those stories. It was perfect!
In the end it was Ian who decided I had to use a ginger jar because it has a lid and we so often keep a lid on our truths, on our stories, keeping them secret. Yet I believe that we should keep our stories sacred not secret and that in sharing them we make connections with other people and also with ourselves and our own understanding.
So now I had my idea and my metaphor. Now all I needed was someone to and create it for me. I immediately thought of Cath Brew, the illustrator who had come to us at Springtime Books last year with her own book of cartoons, called Living Elsewhere. So pleased was I with her mind-reading skills, not to mention her artistic skills, that I commissioned her to draw all the illustrations for my keynote.
It was while I was musing on the concept of the kintsugi that I realised that, like a piece of porcelain, we too are born perfect, yet fragile. Moving, like live experiences, can break us, but somehow we manage to put ourselves back together again, like a piece of kintsugi. And, in so doing we too become stronger, more resilient, more beautiful and definitely more valuable.
I loved Cath’s interpretation so much that I had the jar made into a silver pendant with gold cracks by Jonathan Yunand picked it up in Penang just before my trip to Bangkok.
Leonard Cohen wrote that, “There is a crack, there is a crack in everything. it’s where the light gets in.”
When I shared these words with my writers’ circle recently, Maggie added, “Yes, Jo. That is true. But it is also where your own light can get out.”
Maggie was right. And so her words became the final words of that keynote.
Did my keynote have the effect we had all hoped for? It seems so because the attendees did indeed start sharing with each other and many of them also ordered their own Life Story Jar jewellery from Jonathan Yun.