Ohi Chozaemon IX (1901-1986) Japan, 1955, Earthenware Tea Bowl
Denver Museum of Art
Not to long ago I found that I had nothing scheduled in my calendar from 12:30-1:30 on a Wednesday. I remember being confused by the space. What do I do? Should I not be having lunch with a parishioner? Should I do work on next year’s taxes? Should I dust my office? Should I fill the space with emails so that the people who have emailed me are happy with my quick response? Should I write the next case brochure? Should I begin work on next week’s sermon? Should I meditate so that I am centered and very zen-ish?
These questions, appearing in my mind in the rapid succession of a machine gun, cause me to wonder about my life. And I also wonder if I am really so alone in this or if many are like me – over-committed, over-stimulated, over-scheduled, over-caffeinated, over-worked?
Why do we, as a culture, not talk about this more, together? Perhaps we are simply so busy that we do not have time to get together and “co-miser-ate” (feel misery together) about how busy and over-tired we are? Perhaps we use busy-ness to not-feel our pain …broken marriages, unfulfilling jobs, fear about our bodies or money…the list is endless. And if it is so – that we do not talk about busy-ness because we are so busy, well, is that not a vicious cycle? It must make Satan giggle.
That day in which I found a free, unscheduled hour, my immediate reaction was to fill it. But I know my friends and advisors would encourage me to do something which would delight me. Then I thought I should walk Kai and even Kai seemed to have a “relax, go have some fun” look on his wise, old face. Or I projected. Or both.
So, I put my phone on DND, left my cell phone in my desk drawer, kissed Kai on the forehead, and walked down the street to the Denver Art Museum. I went to the fifth floor, and eased into the Asian Art Collection the way a hospital patient eases into a hot bath to loosen muscles after an accident.
I wandered from tea bowl, to vase, from wall hanging to buddha, from painted screen to incense bowl – bits of beauty behind glass. I could see the feminine curve of a vase. I could see the way a tea bowl sloped so elegantly to such a strong foot – perfectly carved by the potter a hundred years ago in a silent studio in the backwoods of Japan in the 50’s while Americans danced to Elvis Presley and ate jello salads? How many people in his village ate sweet rice from this bowl before it was discovered for its great beauty, washed and sent to this museum?
What would life be like if we spent more time with beauty? I mean walked to it. I mean sought it out. I mean spent fifteen minutes with one tea bowl just staring at it? Beauty will be defined by us all differently. But I wonder about television, internet surfing, and youtube cat videos. Why was I alI alone on the entire floor, in the museum, during a lunch hour, when the building is surrounded by thousands of souls in offices in every direction?
We keep assuming that when Jesus went up the mountains early in the morning it was to pray. Pious, yes. Likely, yes. But what if he spent only one hour praying and the other on his chest with his nose three inches from a wildflower or a sparkly rock in utter amazement and gratitude?