Saturday, March 12, 2005

Wendell Berry's Standing By Words was out of print for 15 years, but has been recently republished:

or amazon:

a quote:

“Two epidemic illnesses of our time—upon both of which virtual industries of cures have been founded—are the disintegration of communities and the disintegration of persons. That these two are related (that private loneliness, for example, will necessarily accompany public confusion) is clear enough . . .

What seems not so well understood, because not so much examined, is the relation between these disintegrations and the disintegration of language. My impression is that we have seen, for perhaps a hundred and fifty years, a gradual increase in language that is either meaningless or destructive of meaning. And I believe that this increasing unreliability of language parallels the increasing disintegration, over the same period, of persons and communities.”
—from the essay “Standing by Words”
"What level of experience do we achieve by running a hand over a Formica counter, gripping the rim of a stainless steel mixing bowl, or touching the door of a refrigerator? Even materials that have an intrinsic tactile surface, such as wood, are rendered neutral by being permeated with plastic and isolated from our tactile sensors. As a result, we are deprived of one of the basic senses with which potters must concern themselves, since the forms and surfaces they create are made by the pressure and grip of their hands on the clay. In some standardized and repetative ceramics, these gestures become stereotyped and meaningless, but in a sensitively made pot this contact between maker and material can become a direct and moving experience that may be shared by users of the pot. Not only the forms which reveal themselves, but also the weight of the pot, the texture of the materials, and surface gesture provide an open door to understanding. First, however, we must overcome the inhibitions of our Western acculturation that causes us to feel knowledge by touch is immature, primitive, and even illegal. Among many other peoples, the hand is a live instrument of experience, used in daily life to hold, lift, grip, and explore. As a tool for living, it becomes a tool for knowing."

--Warren MacKenzie

Friday, March 11, 2005

Getting beyond our funk of hubris.... It is a lack of humility in our modern age that keeps us from acknowledging our influences. Rather than simply seeing tradition as something we only take from, Hamada saw the responsibility of the maker to make something original, but genuine, that we give back to the tradition. In his words:

"Just to give oneself up to folk art will never do. One must chew and eat up mingei (folkcraft) -- eat it, consume it, put it in your belly; to put it in your system and digest it is what is required in this day and age. We are to assimilate it and do something of our own with this food."

And more from other authors:

Between Lies and Truth
Written by Shirasu Masako
for Bessatsu Taiyo, 1996, Heibonsha Publishing
Translated by Aoyama Wahei

"Individuality derives from standing on the shoulders of tradition. By acknowledging the roads taken, by understanding history, we can finally arrive at discovering ourselves. By first understanding how to make something, it is our next duty to take it one step further. Even in the art of Noh (Japanese traditional theater), the most minute of details have been passed down in the form of procedural kata. Yet only when an actor masters the traditions, can he finally break free and turn them into his own. Those that simply follow what the "kata" formalities of tradition have taught them, will forever only be "kata" themselves. In the end, they will realize that they had not understood a thing."

Whole essay found here:

Here is a Navajo Chant:

The mountains, I become part of it...

The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.

The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering


I become part of it.

The wilderness, the dew drops, the


I become part of it.

And and Ojibway prayer:

look at our brokenness.

We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

We know that we are the ones
who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred Way.

Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, and honor
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.

The last two are from Mayumi Oda's Japanese version of "I Opened The Gate, Laughing."

Lee in Mashiko, Japan WEB LOG Photos!