The Great Potter
During a pre-marriage counselling session, the councillor showed the couple a picture of a potter-house and asked each one of them to identify with one of the picture’s elements; the picture basically contained three elements: the potter, the wheel and clay.
After a considerable time of silence…….both of them said: “the wheel”.
Generally, not only in marriage life, we might be too polite to express our deepest wish to be in the place of the potter, but we are defiantly against being the clay.
Conventional Pottery (the act of making pottery wares) has changed very little through the centuries. The wheel is now turned by an electric motor, but that is about everything. Even this is still controlled by the foot of the potter. The clay is the same as it has always been.
Not long ago, we (human race) were more humble; this picture of the potter sitting behind his wheel forming and creating a useful pot or a beautiful decorative vase was inside the mind and soul of each one of us.
We saw our life in the hands of The One who is ultimately knowing, able and loving. Before we went to sleep we would put our thoughts and concerns in his palms. As we left our houses in the morning, we asked him for guidance and when fear and sadness hit us we ran to him for help.
The picture was present in the language we used and in our attitude from everything around us. I believe, not long ago, we lived in the world of the Great Potter.
But, gradually, something changed; there has been a growing desire in us to be the potter of our own life and everything in it.
We seemed to love the idea of being able to create something useful and beautiful out of a messy chunk of clay. We wanted to believe that what happens to this clay can happen to anything that comes our way; we are creative, smart, willing and we build something new almost every day, so why not to see ourselves as great potters??
Since we (the human kind) started to uncover the laws of our world and later to control them we wanted nothing to do with clay; we felt that we’ve been there too long and we’ve paid our dues!
When we look at all that has been achieved in the fields of science and technology we are more convinced that it was the best thing we’ve ever done when we claimed the seat of the potter. Who needs a great potter when he/she is that good?
Bear with me this story: in the Bible in Old Testament there is this story about a person whose name is Jeremiah. The people in Jeremiah’s time have, at least, one thing in common with us today; they have lost the concept of the Great Potter from their life. God thought he needed to talk with Jeremiah about that.
The amazing thing in this story is in spite of the fact that potter-houses were at every corner and everybody (including young children) knew exactly what a potter house was and what happened in it, God still asked Jeremiah to go down to one of them.
He told him: “go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words” (Jer. 18.2).
Jeremiah could have received the words elsewhere, but God wanted him to be looking at the fingers of the potter holding the clay, his foot turning the wheel and his craftsmanship transforming the idea into reality.
“I will let you hear my words” meant more than hearing words; it meant helping Jeremiah (in behalf of his people) to rebuild the connection between the picture he once owned in his mind and soul and between God telling him the words: “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”
This story teaches me that there is hardly any use if I keep telling myself: “I can’t be the potter of my life.” Or “there is no sense of meaning or true purpose when I’m trying to give a shape and use to my days.” I became defensive every time I did this and (to my grief) I worked hard to prove the opposite.
Instead, I needed to find the picture of the Great Potter in my mind and soul. I needed to build the bridge between that picture and the words: “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”
I wonder, if you saw a picture of a potter-house and were asked to identify with one of the picture’s elements, what would you pick? I hope not the wheel!
When one is on the far side of 50 (sliding downhill even), it’s a bet that reasonable people might be forgiven for asking, “Why on earth did you ever take up tap dancing? Aren’t you the person who thinks using the television remote constitutes a full upper body workout? At your age, what the heck possessed you?”
To them all I say simply that I decided to take up tap dancing because I needed to get involved in some form of exercise, and no one wanted me on the Olympic Ski Team.
I enrolled in adult tap.
The other women in my tap class are perhaps a little younger than me (about two and a half decades). And they are each a little, shall we say, smaller, than me (about the size of my left thigh.)
They have all taken tap for some time, and most come to class in form fitting tights and tops. I tend to appear in those elasticized, ‘comfort-fit’ pants and men’s extra-extra-large t-shirts.
Nonetheless, I am determined to get into shape through dance.
Actually, just bending over to try and get the tight buckles on my tap heels done up equals a full pre-class warm up for me.
Each week for months now we have extensively worked on steps like the frappé, shuffle ball change, the brush, cramp, buffalo and Susie Q. And you know, just as soon as I can remember what any of those terms actually means, I’ll be fine. Currently, I struggle along about two taps behind everybody else in the chorus line: I would like to point out, in my defense, that it used to be four.
What I have primarily learned about tap recitals (yes, a recital!) is that you have to wear a costume. Recitals are an important high point of the dance school year, and hundreds of family and friends fill the hall to watch the performances.
Now that my teacher has firmly established that I must actually dance in front of the back drop curtain at the recital, I find I must also wear a costume. My class mates were very keen on the dance catalogue selections: short, strapless, backless frocks with lots of ruffles and glitter. Their suggestions were eye-catching. Youthful. Small. I mentioned that the last dress slacks I purchased carried a label that said ‘House of Omar the Tent Maker.’
We’ve actually compromised on a kind of 1920’s look for our recital number, complete with plenty of fringe. Still, in idle moments, I find myself imagining what the audience will be thinking if I get all that fringe swinging and swaying on stage, still two beats behind everyone else. Perhaps prairie wheat fields in a gale? Sigh.
The thing is, I like tap dancing. Really like it. I intend to go on.
Still, if I can’t get the choreography in the adult number down a little better by spring, I secretly fear being ‘sent to the minors’ as it were: i.e. the junior tap class.
This class is made up of five-year-old girls, with pig tails and pink tutus.
I might stand out.
I was at the cenotaph for the Iroquois Legion’s Remembrance Day service on November 6. The day was absolutely beautiful, the setting sun stretching out shadows to the west, hardly a cloud in the sky, pleasantly, sweetly warm for late fall.
There wasn’t a huge crowd gathered at the monument. Often there isn’t. Some veterans, members of the Legion, a few civic, service and business leaders, church representatives, scouts, and a handful of ordinary people waiting for the parade from the Legion. I talked to a couple of the women. One woman’s husband had been in the military for nearly two decades before he retired. The other was younger. Her husband has just signed up to serve in the Canadian forces. Each woman had her own private reason for being at the cenotaph this balmy November day.
You wonder sometimes, as you listen to the service, just what the guys whose names are engraved on the weathered grey monument would make of all this: the pipes, the wreaths, the quiet little crowd.
No serene autumn days in the world where such young men gave up their lives! Hard to admire a sunset when the earth around you is erupting in mortar shells and machine gun bullets. Hard to recall blue skies when the sea around you is full of burning ships and floating corpses. Hard to remember a warm wind when you are shivering in a loaded bomber praying the ack-ack and the search lights miss you.
Perhaps these long-lost warriors of long ago wars, wherever they are, will be glad to know that people still come out on a sunny afternoon to think about them. That there are kids in this crowd who stood and saluted at their names. That the sound of the pipes in The Last Post could still bring tears to watching eyes. Maybe they’ll even feel that it had actually been worth it: forever giving up their own chances of quiet autumn days like this so that people in this town, this province, this country would never have to.
It might be a comfort for them to know that we remember them still. And we honour them.