Sunday, June 12, 2011

no resolution

I've been an undisciplined meditator for about 4 years now. Every other week or so, I meditate with group at Shambala Meditation Center in Berkeley, and there is always a reading on Buddhist practice that we discuss after the 45 minute meditation. The last reading from Pema Chodron's Living With Uncertainty was about resolution. She wrote that as humans, we are always reaching for resolution, but resolution does not exist. This immediately caused a stir among the over-achieving Bay Area types who typically attend this meditation session, all of us quite comfortable with the idea that hard work will bring results, then resolution, quickly followed by happiness. The writer went on to say we don't even deserve resolution, but something better than that, which is mindful awareness. When it comes to mindfulness, I'm still batting in the Little League. But the concept of no resolution is something I grasped immediately.

Pottery is all about no resolution, which is why many ceramic artists are driven slowly crazy by the medium. It's difficult to accept no resolution. For me, that means nothing I make is perfect, shit is always falling apart, the work is never done, and there is always something more to learn. I have intellectually understood this about pottery for quite a while now, but practicing acceptance without resistance is exercise that gets me all sweaty. I get there every once in a while. Meditation helps. So does an ice-cold cocktail. With apologies to Pema Chodron, I've reinterpreted some of her writings to address the potter-warrior:

A potter accepts that we can never know what will come out of the kiln. We can try to control the uncontrollable by following the glaze recipe exactly or firing the kiln to the same temperature each time, always hoping to get a perfect result. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It's also what makes us afraid of opening the kiln and wish we majored in computer science so we could be making money writing apps for smartphones instead of spending our days alone in a dusty studio. If we find ourselves in doubt that we're up to being a potter, we can contemplate this question: "Do I prefer to grow up and accept what comes out of the kiln, or do I choose to live and die in fear of what comes out of the kiln?"

11 comments:

  1. As a glass fuser I can relate to this! Our mediums have minds of their own...much like children!

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  2. I think a lot of artist can relate. I always wondered about the mass market of products. Why does everyone want something that is exactly like something else.

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  3. hi whitney,
    i love all that stuff and it's funny to hear your take on it. haven't read
    mr. chodron but i agree with him and the others who have said it all in varied ways. i'm particularly fond of byron katie's "loving what is" because she continually proves that whatever it is that your pissed about, it's all your fault and it's a riot to read the transcripts of her letting people try to tell her otherwise. your reinterpretation is right on the money too, however, i was involved in computer programming in a previous life and there was definitely no dust and the pay was better too but making pots wins hands down to me... i'm gonna go have an ice-cold cocktail.

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  4. It has taken me ages to 'let go' and wait until I see the fully glaze fired pot before thinking I have a great piece. Aussie/Thai artist, Vipoo Srivilasa, http://www.vipoo.com/ recently posted a photo of a large intricate sculpture that blew up in firing - All that work but as a professional, it was just a matter of starting all over! Is that the resolution? Keep on keeping on?

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  5. I am going to print this out and hang it next to my kiln...and then I am going to have a cocktail (with not ketchup).

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  6. Yeah I can relate to this too, I think you just have to let go to an extent. It is frustrating that things could always be better but I think I'd get bored as a potter if it wasn't always challenging in that way!

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  7. I have read both Pema and Byron Katie's work... Yes... I read... and it is all relevant. Especially to the clay artist. I have specifically been trying to focus on the enjoyment of the process for this very reason... and develop my work in a way that will satisfy ME at each point in the process.... easier said than done. Acceptance is tough and quite often WE base our OWN acceptance of the piece on how others will perceive it...a shame really...If you build it they do, eventually, come. Anyway... being in that present moment is definitely the KEY to life... but good luck getting there it is hard , baby, really hard...

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  8. Great post, thank you. I like your potter-warrior interpretation, and it will soon be posted by my kiln!

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