busy-ness : hell’s levels and a teapot’s holes


This teapot is one of my favorites.  I pulled it from the kiln recently to find the glaze had done exactly what I had hoped it would do. It flowed such that its lighter side at top was full of blues and violets while the bottom half was gathered in ochres and browns with bits of mustards and blacks from the clay’s iron deposits.

But Then I saw it.

I opened the lid, and saw it.

In my haste to make six teapots rather than the normal four per hour (I have an exhibit of teapots coming up soon) I had attached the spout without having cut the tea-straining holes in the body of the pot before attaching the spout. In other words, without holes in the wall of the teapot behind the spout, there is no way to pour out the tea.

One can pour the water in on the tea, but then it sits there, forever, evaporating into a thick tea-slime of black goo. You can keep pouring water in on it but it will never pour out into a tea cup.  It just gets thicker and thicker from the mineral deposits of our New Mexican water. Hmm.  A dilemma.

I spent some time pondering this tea pot.  I kept it, rather than tossing it onto the heap of broken imperfections behind the kiln.  I felt that it wanted to tell me something.  So I kept it on my outdoor table at the farmhouse and sat with it each morning to ponder what it might be saying.

Because I was raised in an alcoholic system by two alcoholic parents, I naturally chose to work in an alcoholic family system in the church. It felt “normal.” I joined AL-Anon the same week this pot emerged from its kiln recently, to learn more about the effects of being raised in an alcoholic system.  Apparently alcoholic systems are “a thing.”

The results of having been raised by abusive and neglectful parents (they did their best) is that I am left with a deep-seated PTSD which expresses itself in many unflattering ways.  One is busy-ness.  I am always busy.  I am always filling a crock pot or throwing a pot or raising money or chatting with someone needing help or writing a book…the list goes on.  And unless I am practicing great care with mindfulness, I can become so busy that I make bad life-choices.  I get over-tired. I watch too much TV.  I eat recreationally.  I shop for a power-hit.  You perhaps recognize this.  No great terrible sin…just lots of carelessness.  Anesthetizing my pain with busy-ness means I do not FEEL my pain or FACE my demons.  But both lay waiting for me.

I think this is a distinctly American malady – anesthesia by doing too much.  People like me whose PTSD from childhood manifests in work-addiction in adulthood are addicts like any old alcoholic, drug addict, porn addict or adventure-rush-addict.  We addicts use things to separate us from feeling what we are feeling.

The problem, of course, is that busy-ness is productive.  Busy-ness can even be lucrative and impressive.  Very busy people – using their busy-ness to avoid their pain, often become very rich or powerful people.  But of course this makes them not only dangerous to themselves but dangerous to others.  How to people become Presidents?  CEO’s?  Bishops, Cardinal Rectors, Canons to Ordinaries?  They do a lot; and they do it fast.  They produce a lot and then they become well-known and then they are elevated…the cycle goes on and on.  Not all powerful people are ill.  But some are.  Enough are.  Too many are.  I am. But illness has remedies.  People and groups can heal if they can see their illness.

We will soon gather for a General Convention.  Some saints will be there to help.  But many will be very, very busy.  Meetings, liturgies, escalators, elections, lobbying, review panels, filibusters, votes, speeches.  Some will be there in their goodness to expose the Kingdom.  Others will be there to build their empires.

Jesus would freak. Or at least be confused by it all.

So I have decided to keep the teapot and to exhibit in the upcoming show of 19 teapots each representing one of Dante’s levels of Hell and Spheres of Heaven in the Inferno and Paradiso.  This teapot which receives but does not give will be named for the Fourth Level of Hell. Greed. Stuck-ness. Too-much-ness.  Muck.

Virgil]: “Wedged in the slime, they say: ‘We had been sullen
in the sweet air that’s gladdened by the sun;
we bore the mist of sluggishness in us:
now we are bitter in the blackened mud.’
This hymn they have to gurgle in their gullets,
because they cannot speak it in full words.” (Inf. VII, 121-126)

Canto 7.  The fourth Level of Hell for the greedy and the prodigal

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