To play God, for a moment
It’s in all of us, and in all the things we do for immortality
To craft clay is to sculpt life, and to sculpt life is to play God for a moment. That’s the gift of the potter’s wheel, or indeed the baker’s oven, the writer’s pen, the cyclist’s wheel.
We’re all looking for that immortality, looking for that 183mph Guinness World Record, looking for that baked earth that might outlive us. Perhaps it’s our way of dealing with death: our thinking that it’s not so bad if we leave something indelibly ours behind. Perhaps it’s pure vanity. Whatever it is, it’s a powerful urge, and it’s deeply engrained.
We’re the last remaining family in this country – if not in the world – that still makes them out of clay. Back in 1888, before you or I were born, they changed the recipe to a mix of limestone and pitch. It’s easier to shoot, they say, breaks apart better.
There’s machines in factories now that churn them out on conveyor belts. And yet, here we are against all odds and against all logic, still getting our hands dirty. We’re the last bastion of real craftsmanship.
Do I mind seeing what I’ve so carefully made suddenly shot to pieces? No. Yes and no. Yes, because death is always a painful thing, but no because that’s the way the world works. First it giveth, then it taketh away.
Nothing lasts forever, so why let’s get sentimental about it? The looser we can hold to the things that will leave us, the better.
Now that’s not to say love’s not a glorious thing. Love, so brazen in the face of certain defeat. It knows it’s doomed, and yet it pushes on regardless. And unlike art, it won’t leave a thing behind. No shattered shards of pottery to clear up – well, not in the physical sense.
There’s nothing quite like the feel of wet clay. Not even first loves mould to your fingers the way clay does. Nothing holds within it quite so much potential. Nothing contains the decades-long deposits that form its body.
Nothing lasts that long anymore – five seconds to load a webpage, seven hours to cross the Atlantic – it’s too long. We’ve lost the slow-burn appreciation of clay, the slow-burn appreciation of life.
To sculpt clay is to craft life, and to craft life is to play God for a moment. And yet, is that not exactly what the shooters are after?
To prove their ability to pluck an object from the sky at will and dispatch it, to have that much power over an inanimate object, to demonstrate their godliness for a minute.
I wait for the call, then watch my work fly through the air. “Pull!”
Then all is silent, save for the call of birds and the shards falling into soft undergrowth. I have watched God at work. It’s in all of us, and in all the things that we do for immortality.
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