Of Glazes, Numbers and Happy People
Those of you who have read my blogs before know that my first passion is Numerology and that my second passion is ceramics (check out ArtDecoz.com). This means I divide much of my time between working with numbers and mixing chemicals. Yesterday, while in the process of making some new glazes, I realized that there is a pretty good analogy to be found between the precisely balanced combination of chemicals needed to make a nice glaze and the many traits and qualities that make a happy human being. Please notice that I said "happy," not "smart" or "successful" or even "good" human being. That is because I am pretty sure that happy is the ultimate state of being.
When you mix a glaze, even a sizeable quantity like five gallons, you use a scale that is extremely precise, measuring in units as small as milligrams. Usually your base materials take up anywhere from 10% to 30% each, topped off with more obscure chemicals that sometimes take up less than one-tenth of a percent, yet are decisive in producing the right color. For example, to make one of my favorite glazes, a kind of marbled green and blue with tones of bronze showing through here and there, I use as much as 18% Feldspar, 11% Whiting, and about a dozen other chemicals varying between 5% and 10% each. Yet I use less than one half of a percent of Cobalt Oxide, the chemical mostly responsible for the green-blue that creates the dominant color.
You could make a comparison with people. After all, they are also made up in large part of certain "base materials" -- like ambition, creativity, originality, determination, etc. Each person is absolutely unique and, to stick with my analogy, I would imagine is actually made up of thousands and thousands of different components -- surely a whole lot more complicated than my simple glaze.
What makes one a happy person and another less so is often the result of a tiny amount of a certain quality, one that is responsible for tying it all together and producing just the right color. It also illustrates how complex, if not impossible, it is to tell a person to add this or that and live happily ever after. This is the reason I always warn clients who believe that changing their name to become rich and/or successful is a very dicey endeavor -- one that definitely falls under the "be careful what you ask for" heading. Just as when, by accident, I add a teaspoon of Iron Oxide to the aforementioned five gallon bucket of glaze, it would ruin the color, probably turning it into some ugly baby-poop brown with black splotches. (Okay, enough with the visuals!)
When I do a Numerology chart for someone, the "base materials" are the easiest to recognize. They are crucial in both presence and dominance. Too much of a good thing is not what you want to find. Ambition is necessary, but too much ambition can ruin your chances for happiness (lots of money, perhaps, but not much joy). Originality is a wonderful asset, yet too much of it pushes one to waste time and energy trying to float iron balloons. Balance is everything.
It is considerably more challenging to find the smaller traits. The smaller ones are more vital to becoming a complete and fulfilled individual -- to produce, so to speak, the exact right color. I have no idea how to define what that is, but it is my experience that we gain and lose those tiny qualities throughout our lives. It is as if time shapes and defines us by chopping away small bits of us and adding pieces elsewhere. All of us are works in progress. I am convinced you can speed up the process by being honest and genuine about yourself, but that to, is a quality we have to acquire before we can apply it.
To continue the analogy then, there comes a time when we fire the piece. When it comes out of the kiln, you get to see the result. You get to judge how well you mixed your chemicals and applied them to the piece. This, in my mind, is also how we are judged -- if, indeed, that is the right word. I think the idea that our maker and his crew take a look at you standing in front of the pearly gates and decide whether you go to heaven or hell is a bit simplistic. Highly symbolic, sure, but also childishly simplistic. Instead, I think that the moment of passing brings a moment of true clarity, a moment when you, the person dying, judges the quality of your glaze. You will be your own judge. Or, better said, the part of you that is the essence of your maker and has been your true source, your most essential energy, throughout your life -- the breath within your breath, as Kabir puts it -- will show you everything there is to know. That is your moment! If you like the color, you find some joy which, in turn, lifts you toward the light. If you don't like the color, the weight of your disappointment and regret might not be the cause of much joy at all. But then who am I to judge? (Pun intended.)
As always, I look around at a world made of matter to get some insight into what the world of energy might be like, as one is a reflection of the other. It seems pretty clear to me that even if the glaze didn't come out quite perfect, or perhaps even very badly, the process of adding and removing components in search of just the right color and balance continues on. Nothing gets wasted. Mother Nature's innate talent to find a purpose for everything -- to recycle and reclaim and rebirth -- cannot be that different from her invisible counterpart. Still, I better look into my mirror (figuratively speaking) every once in a while to see if I can figure out what to add or what to remove.
I am aiming for a really good color -- one that, I hope, will blow His socks off.