I first saw “broken rice” on a Vietnamese menu. I didn’t know what it was, but the thought of rice being broken intrigued me. I've since learned it's when rice is fragmented in the milling process. Considered inferior to white rice, there are many recipes that make use of it, but it was the word “broken” that really got me thinking.
Think of all the phrases we use with the word broken in it. Immediately the word conjures up a negative situation. And yet sometimes being broken make us stronger.
In Robbie Robertson’s song, Broken Arrow, he asks,
Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow?
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain?
I never understood what he meant by those words but found that it is a Native American expression that means a peaceful end of conflict and the development of a strong relationship.
Ernest Hemingway's book, A Farewell to Arms, includes this quote,
The world breaks everyone, and afterward,
some are strong at the broken places.
Much like the ancient Japanese art of fixing broken pottery, Kintsugi, it is those breaks that are important. Using a lacquer dusted in gold to rejoin the pieces, the cracks are highlighted, honoring the unique history of the piece and emphasizing its beauty by giving it a second life.
And in Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem, he repeats,
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
Absolutely true! As a side note, there is a phrase attributed to both Hemingway and Cohen - a misquote - that is actually a blending of both their words.
We are all broken; that's how the light gets in.
So where am I going with this?
My sister, nephew, and I took part in the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk on June 4th, 2022. For 17 miles, 2,000 “broken hearts” walked through the night in NYC and raised $2.6M for suicide prevention. We started at 8:30PM from the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and finished back there at 4:30AM. Some people walked in quiet solitude, while others laughed and sang. It was in many ways an uplifting experience being with others who had suffered the same losses. Despite how exhausted we were by the end, not to mention our aching feet, we were proud to have been able to make it through for the love of our Jessica.
Yes, our hearts were broken, but not our spirits Like a piece of Japanese pottery that has been repaired, the gold reminds us of how far we've come in living through something we never thought possible. It's those broken parts in all of us that make us fully human - and amazingly resilient.
Image: Broken Rice, clay monoprint by Mitch Lyons