the glass is already broken ...

Giorgio Morandi Natura Morta 1957

A little while ago now I published a post that focused on the simple pleasures of a cup of tea [the tea of life].  A week or two after making the post I had prepared a pot of rooibos tea, cup and saucer on a tea tray, then rather foolishly positioned the tray precariously atop a crooked pile of books on my side table next to the bed.  Needless to say, tray, teapot, cup and saucer soon followed the inevitable path of gravity - falling with a rather spectacular crash to the floor. 

As the rooibos tea escaped from the teapot and rapidly made its way across the linoleum, it was hard to know which 'possession' to grieve for first; my porcelain Japanese teapot which I had had for more than fifteen years, providing many a treasured pot of tea. Or the now tea-soaked pages of a beloved Morandi catalogue I purchased when visiting the Mueseo Morandi two years ago in Italy. All the while counting my blessings that the tea cup and saucer - a more recent gift, were not also amongst the evenings casualties. 

On further pondering my broken tea pot, I had to concede, that considering the number of times I have moved location over the years it has been in my life; it is a miracle it had been with me this long .  How fortunate I have been to have enjoyed it so thoroughly.

Which brings me to Ayya Khema and Achaan Chah - who have some rather inspirational thoughts on this very topic: 

'Now for me, 'the glass is already broken'.  Once a westerner asked Achaan Chah, a great Thai teacher, why he had so many material things in his room.  He replied: 'You see this glass, to me it is already broken.  While it is still intact on the table I use it.  It even has beautiful colours when the sun shines and a lovely sound when I hit it with a spoon.  But for me, it is already broken.'  This means no attachment, not trying to keep anything.' 
[Ayya Khema from Women on the Buddhist Path, author Martine Batchelor]

Ah - lovely! 
And yet for me it means something more too - Achann Chah talks of the 'beautiful colours' and the 'lovely sound' of the glass. In understanding that everything that we have in our lives 'is already broken' what can we do but aim to appreciate these temporary joys for the brief time we are able to have them in our lives... 

In a similar spirit from Thich Nhat Hanh: 

'this too shall pass...'

While I often visit this thought in situations when life is difficult or one is facing challenges; its real beauty, for me, comes when it is applied to moments of happiness, or to that we wish to hold on to, yet can not. We can only appreciate and enjoy these times or cherished possessions for what they are, in the moment, and to be grateful we are fortunate enough to experience them.

Which brings me to that which we all believe we 'possess' but will have to surrender at some undefined moment in time, our own life.

This week saw the passing of apple executive Steve Jobs;  and I was unexpectedly moved to read an except of his thoughts regarding his impending death in a Stanford commencement speech in 2005:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
[Steve Jobs: Stanford commencement speech 2005]

Giorgio Morandi Natura Morta 1954

Morandi, whose creative oeuvre is a testament to following ones heart, titled many of his  paintings Natura Morta, which in english translates to 'dead nature'.  I remember standing filled with reverence in the Museo Morandi as these quiet, contemplative works held me in awe.  Here was a painter whose life's work was an act of appreciation of the simple bowl, vase, bottle and jug and in doing so created a body of work that spoke of so much more...

'Everything is a mystery, ourselves, and all things both
simple and humble ...'

[Giorgio Morandi] 

In my studio I have a small wooden box of 'shards'.  Porcelain, glass and ceramic, these are fragments I found when driving down the Oodnadatta Track some years ago now.  They lay scattered in the red earth far from any trace of a town, embedded in the dirt looking quite at home amongst the gibber stones.  Over the years I have loved to meditate on each fragment, wondering about the original form each shard once took; plate, bowl, saucer, bottle - and wondering about the lives and fates of those who brought them into the desert, to dust...

and one last beautiful thought on mortality from Rabindranath Tagore: 

'I know I will love death when it comes 
- for I have loved life ... '

[Rabindranath Tagore: 39 Microlectures]