One of my students is teaching himself to throw pots while blindfolded. Actually, all of the teaching has already happened. The porcelain bowls he has been throwing are as lovely as anything made with full vision – soft, fluid, and graceful.
He ripped a soft old t-shirt to serve as a blindfold, and he ties it on each day to begin his work without prompting.
Today, during a break, he observed that he had been shutting his eyes inside the blindfold.
“It doesn’t seem right to have my eyes open and just not see anything,” he said. “So I close my eyes.”
I paused to write this down.
When I arrived home tonight, my dog was watching the news channel I had left on while I was at work. Friends had texted me news of the San Bernadino shootings, but I was too spent from a long day to respond. Now, breaking news of police aiming guns from armored vehicles blared from my television.
I shut it off.
It doesn’t seem right to have my eyes open and just not see anything.
I don’t see progress towards solving the problem of multiple mass shootings in one day, and more of these violent events than there have been calendar days this year.
I don’t see our leaders responding with anything more substantial that public relations statements or “prayers.”
So I close my eyes.
An old friend once told me that she built her kiln during a complex political time, just because she really needed to add something purely good to the world.
Another old friend – the best supervisor and mentor I have ever known – used to remind me that we have a finite amount of time and energy, and choices on how we will use it.
Maybe this is all that craft really is: a series of choices to add pure good to the world, in whatever time we have.
It’s a choice we should make with our eyes open.
But maybe sometimes, in order to do the most good we can, we need to shut our eyes to constant overwhelm and distraction. Maybe sometimes – not always – a blindfold can help.
But tonight I feel so acutely aware of how all of this focus on what is breathtakingly sad and confusing might leave me paralyzed with grief and anger.
How I might be less able to do what good I can do.
I’m going to the studio early tomorrow.
Tonight, I’m praying, and that’s all I’ve got.