Great quotes: Musashi

I’m reading Musashi right now at Sebastian’s recommendation.  Awesome awesome book so far and I’m barely 1/4th of the way through. I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately, and this little passage really resonated with me.

I’m thinking about incorporating gratitude into my self tracking regimen. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that sort of thing, and I always feel good about life when I’m mindful of the things for which I’m grateful.

Musashi would have liked to have a try at working with the clay. Since boyhood he had enjoyed doing things with his hands, and he thought he might at least be able to make a simple tea bowl. Just then, however, one of the potters, an old man of nearly sixty, started fashioning a tea bowl. Musashi, observing how deftly he moved his fingers and handled his spatula, realized he’d overestimated his own abilities. “It takes so much technique just to make a simple piece like that,” he marveled.

These days he often felt deep admiration for other people’s work. He found he respected technique, art, even the ability to do a simple task well, particularly if it was a skill he himself had not mastered.

– Musashi

I was speaking with my favorite tea guy in all of Taiwan a few weeks back, and he talked about how much skill is involved in firing a little tea bowl. If you use a wood burning kiln and fire it by hand, apparently it takes more than three days for the firing. Not even including making the bowl from the clay and fashioning it into the shape you want.

You still need to gather all the wood, ensure it is dry and cut to length, spend time placing lengths of wood properly so that the fire doesn’t burn too hot and melt the clay, or not hot enough. You have to maintain a reasonably consistent temperature in the kiln by opening and closing vents at the right time, by adding wood at the right points while keeping in mind that the temperature dips after you throw a log on the fire, and then increases rapidly, keeping the weather in mind the entire time.

That’s probably more than enough to get the picture.

I had no clue that hand firing a tea bowl was so complicated before. My favorite tea guy said he spent three full years studying to acquire the necessary skills, and explained the process to me for about 40 minutes. He was barely scratching the surface.

What a crazy skill to have. One of these days I’m going to head out and see what the process is like in person.

Quick site update:

Trying to get the site into shape so that it’s easier to navigate, and more usable. As such I’ve thrown up a Start Here page for anyone new to the site that groups old posts into broad categories. I’ve also put up a Self Tracking page which will auto-update with every entry just to see if I like it.

Question of the Day:

What are you grateful for?

Today I’m grateful for the expat community in Taipei. Everyone I’ve bumped into here is very cool and willing to talk to people they haven’t met before. You could probably find something similar in any country, but I feel like the expat community here is particularly open minded and down to earth.