“Four thousand five hundred miles away; what would you change if you could?” – Counting Crows

My brain turned on at four forty and there’s no way it was going back off. And while I am most definitely going out there to chase more pots again today, 4:40 is still a little too early even for me to go wandering out into the dark. So, looks like you poor bastards get yet another blog post. (And wow: that bowling alley birthday party twelve hours from now is gonna be a hot mess if I don’t catch a nap at some point.)

In that RCR interview, Ben asked Michael if inspiration came from thinking about his work or from actually being in the studio. (I’m paraphrasing from memory here, so if any of this isn’t right, blame me, not them.) Michael said it definitely came from working, and then offered this devastatingly simple guide for how to make progress in your pots:

Set two pots on a table; two of your pots, because if you try to consider the entire history of ceramics it’s just too much. One of those two will almost always feel more like you, more like its pointing in the direction you want to go next. Go make more stuff in that direction.

That’s it! 

Holding on, the days drag on, stupid girl, I should’ve known, I should’ve known…”

{Sorry. Every few paragraphs a timer goes off in my head and I have to squeeze in a T.S. lyric. Swear to god, these run through my thoughts on an almost constant loop all day long.}

So, is this great news or what? All you need is two of your pots, a table, the inclination, and some time to think.

Well, okay. To get even within a continent’s distance from the rare territory that someone like Michael Simon reached, I’m going to say you’ll need more than that. Probably some hard-won, deep personal knowledge; if you don’t yet know who you are, then how would you know which pot is more who you want to become? Also, some penetrating insight, to see past the clutter and gimmicks and pleasing distractions. And the drive to keep sincerely asking, over and over again, Professor Pilcher’s question: “What is the difference that makes a difference?”

After that Schrodinger’s riff the other day, I’ve been trying to think of a way to cram in an Occam’s Razor bit. Well, how’s this: that exercise above — putting two pots on the table, choosing only one to chase (for now, anyways) — how about if we call that Simon’s Razor? Yeah?

Oh fuck yeah. FILDI.

Caveats: it occurs to me that the hardest thing about doing this might not be making the choice, but later on, understanding why you made that choice. Also that inherent in that choice is turning away from vast swaths of other interesting, perhaps even intoxicating, potential. You can’t love two things exactly as much, in the same way, at the same time. Gotta choose. 

So the Razor, while effectively narrowing your focus and aiming you towards higher plateaus, also means accepting all the other paths not taken; living with knowledge of the loss; that going deep means not going broad; that choosing one cardinal direction means leaving eleven others unexplored.

And doing that, over and over and over again, pruning away entire branches of your potential family tree to keep going taproot taproot taproot? (This adds a beautiful new dimension to my understanding of Michael’s tree motif.) Doing that, I suspect, is the really hard part; the vastly uncommon skill and habit and, perhaps, even quirky twist of mind and self that most of us just can’t sustain.

I’d bet, as a general rule, all the greats — all our mutual heroes — have done that, one way or another.

Then again, what do I know? Especially at 5:44 on a Friday? Less than you, I’d wager. 

Wondering where you are now, and if you’re still asleep or, like me, restless in the early dark. And if you’ll happen to read this later, even if later ends up being a lifetime or two from now. That would be nice; it’s nice to imagine, now.

I hope you liked it. Sorry for the swearing and misdirection; it’s still really early.

“And I get no answers. I don’t get no change. It’s raining in Baltimore, baby, and everything else is the same.”

writer's block ……. & porcelain teabowls & the one and only MS on the RCR podcast.

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