Anagama Fired Stoneware
"Do you want to quit? Do you want to quit being a potter?"
The voice tormented my conscience.
Pottery pieces which are made to ingratiate themselves to others....pieces which are made purely for the sake of novelty....pieces which are made only to show one's technical expertise.... The world of ceramic art is overflowing with such things: it has become a world focused on quantity. This should not have happened. But it has happened because we are living according to short-sighted calculation, and living for our own self-interest. This way of living harms not only ourselves, but also others.
Our (Japanese) long fascination with Western Civilization (since the Meiji Restoration), and our struggle to become a part of it has surely brought a good deal of benefit. But in the course of the struggle (to compete with the West), we seem to have forgotten something of the greatest importance.
I grew up and was educated during the "time of confusion" following the Second World War. I graduated from college and entered society just as Japan was emerging from the aftermath of WWII, and was moving forward with rapid progress. Japan was getting wealthy both economically and materially. It was around this time that I decided to become a potter (a ceramic artist).
While others were enjoying their material blessings, my mendicant-like life began under the dim light of an oil lamp in a tin hut which I built by myself. It was a struggle to feed myself.... It was only in 1976 that electricity finally came to my workshop.
During this life of mendicancy (when I sometimes needed to depend on the alms of others), some people had left me, and others had helped me. Judging only from appearances, the latter is appreciated, while the former is not. But the truth is this: without the former, the latter does not exist; and without the latter there is not the former. (The former presupposes the latter; and the latter presupposes the former.) Bipolar opposition exists only in the phenomenal world but they are, in essence, one.
I have done a lot of writing about my encounters with many people, both in my previous book, Honoo no Koe; Tsuchi no Koe ("The Voice of Fire, The Voice of Clay" from Nihon Kyoubun Sha) and in this book*. Because of these encounters, I can create pottery...or to say it another way: "I have become what I am now. "I am greatly indebted to these people for their kindness to me. Above all, I have wonderful parents, and a wonderful wife and daughter. I was born in a pottery town called Shigaraki, and have the Karma ** of Buddha. The Karma reaches back to the past and stretches to all places -- it covers everything. How mysterious Once I realized this, my sense of pride and the sense that I had accomplished success by my own hands, literally disappeared.
Rather, now I live as a result of my encounters with many people, and by the grace of The Infinite (the infinite world). My goal is the world of the Infinite, which is the root and source of life. So, I live my life in gratitude, in total devotion to the root of life. I have no other way to live.
To make oneself live in this way is to enable others to live. And when I am living my life fully, I can create my own pieces. Everyone has his/her own task, and each has a responsibility to fulfill their task -- no one else can fulfill it. Likewise, I am given a particular task of my own: my task is to create my own pieces...pieces which cannot be made by anyone else.
The world of self-interest versus the world of the Infinite. Or to put it another way: either we live in confusion, rushing to and fro, misguided by short-sighted calculation and self-seeking, OR we become fully ourselves and openly live our lives in the freedom of our essential inner natures. I'd rather choose the latter..... At least I try.
"Do you want to quit?" Now, the voice is no longer heard.
(* This article is the Preface from my book Honoo no En; Hito no En ("Karma [Destiny] of Fire and Karma [Opportunity] of Humankind"), published by Nihon Kyoubun Sha, October 20, 1989. ISBN 4-531-06205-1. This book has been selected and recommended by the Japan Library Association, and the All-Japan School Library Association.)
(** Karma is a technical term in Buddhism, and may be seen as roughly equivalent to [God's] positive providence in Christianity.)
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