We like to watch some competitive reality shows. Our current favourites include The Great Canadian Baking Show, and The Great Pottery Throwdown.
On the pottery show, amateurs are challenged to push their creativity and pottery skills to new heights. We grow attached to them, and it’s always a bit sad to see one of these kind souls eliminated at the end of an episode. We know they have a full existence beyond tv, but still.
There is another moment on the show that has some of the life, death, and new life vibe of the scripture that was part of today’s devotional reading from Good Courage. The quote was from 1 Corinthians, and it’s a fairly well known one about “treasure in clay pots”.
On the pottery show, competitors are often asked to complete a technical challenge- to throw as many pots of a certain style in a brief allotment of time. They are judged on how well they match the example they were given, the consistency in size and shape and stylistic features, and the sheer number of successful pots.
As they approach each competitor’s work area, one of the judges carries a metal bucket. When he sees a below standard pot, he mashes it with a quick slap of his palm and scoops the flattened clay into the bucket. Presumably the clay will be used again, fashioned into something wonderful.
We know it’s just clay. We know that each potter on the show has likely done the same to their failed pots, in their own workshop, many times.
Still, to see anyone’s creative efforts summarily reduced to be recycled is a little heart-breaking. (I feel that way about some of the sentences I cut from pieces that I write- it’s called “killing your darlings”.)
There is comfort in the assurance that beyond affliction and despair we have the promise of a life beyond this one. But I still flinch when I see some one, or something I care about being flattened.
I have the same feelings about another reality show called Race against the Tide.
Contestants create amazing sand art, that gets washed away when the tide comes in. I think that’s how we feel when we think we’ve done a good job at something and no one notices or seems to care. I think all humans crave acceptance from others and are easily defeated and/or offended. In a way, we are those clay pots that get flattened.
I’ve watched that one too. It is very sad to see all that good work done, and then be washed away when the tide rolls in. It reminds me of the spiritual practice of Tibetan monks, who make the beautiful mandalas with coloured sand, as acts of prayer, and then when they are all done, they destroy their own work. I think part of why they do it as a meditation on impermanence. Here is a link to a short video about it: