I recently took a beginner pottery class and created the bunny shown in Exhibit A. (See Exhibit A). I also made some bowls and dishes that I am actually, genuinely pleased with, but I'm not going to show you those. I want you to see this bunny, because the bunny has no soul. I slapped it together quickly in the first class. I was longing to get straight to the wheel and feel the clay slipping and spinning between my hands, something I had wanted to do for a long time.
In exasperation, I created the bunny. This clay rabbit will soon find itself outside in a garden somewhere, but for now it's a reminder to myself of what happens when you do things half-assed. I rushed through, pushing it's little life together all the while imagining what I'd do when I got to the wheel. Poor creature to have such an uncaring, unfocussed Creator.
The bunny reminds me of a story I wrote in a creative writing class in high school. The story was about a chocolate Easter bunny factory where one of the bunnies finds out that the conveyor belt, the bunnies, the factory, the whole thing is a great conspiracy kept hidden from the rabbits. They are all being created to be eaten by humans. There was a heated revolt and you know what happens to chocolate around heat. It wasn't pretty, but there was a nice story arc, and the deeper underlying existential implications are obvious.
I went to high school in Langley BC, about an hours drive east of Vancouver. My family moved there when I was 13. I figured we would move again in a year or two, as had been my experience, so I pointedly told my new best friend not to get too attached as I would be leaving all too soon. We didn't move, and last fall she reminded me of this line. (See! Happy ending. We're still friends!)
I ended up graduating high school in Langley. But my approach to the stickiness of time and goodbyes had been formed: Save yourself the heartache and hold back a bit of yourself because it's all going to come crashing to an end eventually.
I don't advise this as a life approach at all. I'm just saying that has been one of my survival tactics. We've all got them. The problem of living half-heartedly is when you miss out on the painful stuff you also miss out on the good stuff. Life is bittersweet. I think this is what Joseph Campbell is talking about when he says "Say yes to the adventure." You have to say 'yes' to all of it, not just the sweetness. And even while you're dipping deeply into the darkness, life, if you let it, finds a way to remind you that there is also wonder and delight. As Leonard Cohen aptly says, "I've studied deeply in the philosophies and religions, but cheerfulness kept breaking through."
Speaking of Leonard, I was watching his brilliant "Live in London" concert DVD last week with my 11 year old. After a few songs she earnestly said, "It's too bad he's Jewish, he would make a really good Christmas album". After just a few songs in, what she heard told her that this man's voice could handle the only sacred songs she knows.
On the surface, it's a funny line, in an 'out of the mouths of babes' kind of way, but I didn't laugh, because it was a, thoughtful, astute observation. To me, that's the best stuff, when language can cut to the heart of life like that. That's why kids are so wise and closer to the poets, not judging every thought that comes out of their minds. It's what Picasso meant by "Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up."
Since this has become a blog of quotations, the Dalai Lama said: We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder. You always have this choice. "
With that in mind maybe I shouldn't be so hard on my half-assed, soulless bunny? Maybe soulless is a little strong?