Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Potter's Wheel

Michael Lally helped me so much with the Main Street project, particularly by having lunch with me on the Main Street in Maplewood, NJ. His comments were always very Zen, words to provoke thought. Zen pushes us in outward spirals that are not "answers" -- as I like to think of answers (2 aspirin for a headache and call me in the morning) -- but openings for a deeper engagement with the world as it is. I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with him, talking about this and that, including my new project on the Tao of K-drama. We talked a lot about the emotions associated with the trip to Korea I'm planning for the spring semester: the long time away from home, the fear of loneliness, the vagueness of my task. As the afternoon wore on, he said, "I have a Zen story for you." 

This is what he told me:
There was a period when Korea was shutoff from Japan. During that time, the Japanese were not able to access a particular kind of Korean pottery that they prized. In the absence of trade with Korea, they tried to duplicate the work. They set up an academy that worked on the problem but could not achieve the special effects that were so admired. When relations were reestablished, the academy sent a delegation to Korea to visit with the makers of this special pottery. They learned that, when the potters there made a wheel, they did not measure, they made it by eyeballing. None of them were even.
My heart leapt up -- to riff on Gerard Manley Hopkins: My heart in hiding Stirred for a story, -- the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!  

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