Or doesn’t line up…
One of my favorite things is to find spiritual insights in everyday science. I see a lot of what goes on in the natural world as an allegory for things happening elsewhere that we may otherwise have a hard time grasping. That’s not to say that I sit down before snails for a Sunday lesson, far from it, I just think that the human brain can get a lot of mileage out of a little bit of symbolism. I also adore parables and admire anyone that comes up with them. So lately I’ve been thinking about a parable of my own…
Have you ever considered clay? It comes from the humblest of places, riverbanks, and in most cases, it is out of order. It sticks to your shoes, stains everything, can’t be used for growing plants, kind of smells, and is generally of no use anywhere but around water. Yet, when we heat up clay something amazing happens: it hardens.
Duh AJ, we know that!
I know you do, but do you know why it hardens? Clay molecules are chaotic, they are all over the place. The reason you can push clay into different forms and mold them into any shape is that that matrix of chaos has strength enough to hold together, but is not strong enough to resist force. So you can push and pull and smash and mush and roll it and it will still be clay, just in a different form. Once the water leaves though, clay is no longer malleable, shapeable, and is instead stuck in whatever place it was last left.
Water makes clay just viscous enough to be molded, but it has no ability to transform clay in and of itself. Water is just a vehicle for the process. So what does the actual transforming? Well, you know the answer already!
Get to the point, AJ!
It’s fire, of course. Fire stresses out the molecules of clay. The heat makes all of those little chaotic molecules, the shards, that are running around all over the place suddenly change and line up. They straighten and all point in the same direction and suddenly a shape that could be pushed and formed is rigid and fights back. This chaos, once placed in order, becomes the strength that is able to withstand great force.
Humble clay has gone from being unwanted, dirty, useless, muck to a pot that holds water or a dish that holds food. It is suddenly important, useful, and beautiful to whoever owns it. Once you apply glazes and all the other fun pottery stuff, the finished piece of pottery looks nothing like what it came from. It has transformed, in the truest sense of the word, and for anyone who has ever worked with the process, is practically magic.
All of that is because of fire.
Fire is stress. Fire is pain. Fire is destruction. It is no coincidence that the phrases “trial by fire” and “forged in fire” have become common vernacular. We know instinctually that the things that cause us the most pain can also make us better people. I feel that we often forget though that the process changes the person just like how the clay is changed. You simply cannot expect to go through flames and be left without burns.
What’s your point, AJ?
I’m leaving that up to you. Do you see yourself as clay that has been through a fire, lined up your molecules, and are now stronger because of it? Or do you see yourself as clay robbed of water, drained of energy, and fragile to the touch? Do you find yourself stronger than you were before, yet unrecognizable to the people who used to know you as clay? Do you feel frustrated that they no longer treat you the same way? Are you scared of what is to come, or are you waiting for what you may be?
I’m interested in your thoughts.
As for myself, well, you know how crazy my career is. I just finished a major commission, am enjoying the feedback on “The Book That Shouldn’t Exist”, and facing my own fire by trying to get spots in bookstores (spoiler alert, they don’t want me, lol.) I’ve also put Nuts 3 on temporary hold in order to remake a book that I delisted a long time ago. It was my second book and it lingers in my head, demanding to be remade. I’ll share more on that soon.
For now, though, have a wonderful weekend and remember that no matter what trial you face, if you face it well, you will only become stronger.