Show and Tell: Zen Non-Attachment
July 21, 2008
For my first Show and Tell, I would like to present a pot that I made.
As you can see, it is broken. It was one of the nicest pieces I have ever made, until I dropped it on the floor. I had just taken it out of the kiln, and it looked great. I just needed to remove the lid, which had gotten stuck to the pot during firing. I’ve done this before, and it usually just requires a little yank. This time, I needed to pull harder. I pulled so hard that the bottom flew off, crashed on the concrete floor, and broke into the four pieces you see here. The next day, I started making a replacement. The replacement still isn’t finished, so I can’t Show and Tell that yet.
When I took up pottery as a hobby, I learned very quickly that you can’t get attached to anything. The process is very risky at so many points. I have ruined or destroyed pieces at every imaginable part of the process: each step of throwing, taking the thrown pot off of the wheel, trimming, the initial bisque firing, glazing, the second glaze fire, and even taking the completed pot home. You really can’t count on anything until you get it home. Even then, there is every possibility that you or someone else will break it in the course of daily use. Everyone who breaks something in my house, even something that I worked hard to create, is entirely forgiven. There is enough unhappiness in life without getting yelled at for breaking a plate.
Pottery for me is as much about the act of creating it as it is about the final product. If it weren’t, I would have given up a long time ago, considering that more pieces have been ruined than have made it to final product stage.
I once shared this realization with a friend of mine who is into Zen philosophy. He thought it was a perfect expression of Zen non-attachment, and that pottery seemed to have helped me grow as a person.
That being said, my skill at non-attachment does not apply to TTC. With baby-making, the final product is much more important than the act of creating (which itself can range from pleasant to a chore to arduous… and I’m only talking about the intervention-free kind of baby-making). I am deeply attached to each potential product, even when I am very unlikely to end up coming home with that particular finished product. But, having realized this, I have no will to change. Aren’t you supposed to be more attached to a human being than to a piece of clay? Even when that human being doesn’t yet exist?