This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from the Rev Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest who raises money for the homeless and lives on a horse farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering daily meditations and reflections
When glass or glaze on clay cools, it sometimes crazes – a technical pottery term for the tiny fractures in the glass which occur as the clay and the glass cool and shrink at different rates. This sometimes happens on a lake in deep winter when the water freezes and pushes against the shore. The thing is that the shore will not move. The frozen water must move. But the frozen water is, well, frozen, and it cannot move either. So the pressure builds up and there are cracks and fractures until the pressure pushes shelves of ice against each other and a mound of broken ice forms as a way to take pressure off the surface. This also happens with land – we call it earthquakes and we call the mounds “mountains.”
Is it possible that this phenomenon happens in life too? When we have too much pressure applied to our lives, are there fractures? I know that, as a recovering work addict… (yes it’s a thing, and yes I am in formal recovery … ”Hello, my name is Charles. I am a work addict.” with a group response: “Hello Charles.”) …I know that I can apply so much pressure to my day or my week that a rupture occurs. The pressure builds and life pushes against 24 hours – and the 24 hours do not budge.
The intoxicating thing about an addiction is that it seems like that thing on which one is anesthetizing one’s pain (work, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, porn, boundary-less relationships, church, hierarchical power, food …the list goes on) starts out as sort of ok. Small. Harmless. One glass of wine is not bad … until you “need it.”
In our society, living with work addiction is difficult because there is very little support. It would be like having a rice addiction and living in Japan, or having a tea addiction and living in London. If everyone around you is an undiagnosed addict and the society has agreed to keep quiet about it, then what does one do?
Last night I signed a contract for a new pottery studio; my own place with wheel and work tables, shelves galore, new friends in neighboring studios, joint kilns and fabulous glazes. It will be like that glass of wine. That one, simple, solitary, innocuous glass of wine. There will be a line beyond which the “delightful hobby” becomes fuel for the work addiction. And my sponsor will help me to watch for that line.
But I must wonder, as I admit one of my many failings, am I alone in this? How much money do we need? How big need be our houses? How fancy need be our cars? How many toys and appliances need we have? How ritzy need be our vacations? How much art need we buy? How big need be our institutions? And how much caffeine need we drink to keep the work-wheel moving at enough of a pace to keep all our things coming? Where does it end? From where comes our self-esteem?
I know a man, a new friend, who is leaving a very prestigious job to stay home and bond with his children. He and his wife have decided that they have “enough” and that the bonded relationship of father and children is more important than a second and significant income. I had a deep respect for this man the second I met him. I knew immediately (and this is rare) that I was looking at, speaking with, an “enlightened human” – and internally I bowed to mark the moment. It was only later that he told me about the family decision so, though impressed, I was not at all surprised. I gave him a small tea bowl. It was something I did to remind myself that my pottery need be just “enough” or else I will fall off the wagon. It feels like his holding that tea bowl contributes to my sobriety.
It is valuable, in life, to ask the question “How much is enough?” and I think that asking that question is a group event, not a solitary one. Can you feel cracks forming in your life from the stress of “too much?” Too much tv? Too much work? Too much noise? Too much activity? Too many words? Too many meetings? Too many possessions?
The thing about life is the same thing about glass in a glaze…it cracks and cracks and cracks but the very pressure which cracks it into pieces is also what seems to be keeping it together.