Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World (again!).

Folks, it is the end of the world (again) today.  Yawn!  

Just so you remember what it looks like... this is our rather nice part of the world!
I was amused to visit the "official" end of the world web site and see that the world had another 12 hours 43 minutes, and a few seconds to go.  That may be true for those of you living in America where it is still Thursday 20 December, but in New Zealand we are almost half way through Friday 21 December and we should be experiencing the end of the world before many of you do, after all, that is how international time zones work!

When it blows, I guess the world will peel like an apple!

We had an early Christmas dinner with a friend on Wednesday evening, but I don't think we talked much about the end of the world, we just enjoyed his company and the food was too good for end of the world angst!

I understand that many people are stockpiling weapons, water, survival food, and even buying smoke alarms to help them get through this special day.  For some reason I do find the smoke alarms particularly amusing,
imagine... "Hey Elmer, wake up...., is that the smoke alarm?"  "Yep Darl, I put in a new battery yesterday so we'll know when it is the end of the world!"

But stockpiling guns... well, those are not funny at all!

Very much middle aged and boring, I feel something of a veteran when it comes to the end of the world.  When I was an infant, America and Russia were at the height of the "cold war", nuclear bomb tests were thundering away above and below ground and there was a sense of nations on the brink of catastrophe.  Later we had global cooling... yes, that's what I was told at school... and oil was going to run out in the 1980s.

In my late teens and early 20s I listened to Evangelical and Pentecostal preachers proclaim that the world would end in 1984 or about then... they liked to blur things slightly, just in case God was a little late, or early. God would do it in His own time.  Hooray for God!  You just had to be ready!

In the early 1980s we had a planetary line up that was going to cause huge sea level rise that would render much of the world uninhabitable. Then we had the year 2000 where runaway military computers would launch ICBMs, the national grid would shut down, tap water would cease to flow, and toilets would no longer work!

More recently we have lived through the threat of global pestilence in the form of SARS and bird flu and some ghastly stomach bug thing that I can't remember the name of.

And of course now there is global warming and chunks of the polar icecaps breaking off and melting, and our food is contaminated with genetically modified material, and we drink heavy metals in our water, fry our brains with microwaves, and char our lungs with second hand cigarette smoke!

It is such a risky business being alive!

And fear is corrosive and addictive.

Fear controls, suppresses and stifles.

Fear also pays well!

“Religion is based primarily upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly as the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death."  Bertrand Russell.

Sadly, there is a great deal of rather uncomfortable truth in Russell's statement, and you could substitute other things for "Religion" too, try inserting the word "Government", "Police", "Insurance", "Pharmaceuticals", "alternative therapy", or "diet", and the result is quite thought provoking!

Well, what are we afraid of?

All of us die, it is probably The most certain thing about our life.  Death is natural, it is just the way things are.   Think of how awful and odd a garden would be if none of the plants ever died.  If no petal ever dropped.  Yet we are often persuaded that our death is not natural.

I used to be afraid of death, especially in my  late teens to mid 20s.  Interestingly, attending church made that fear worse, rather than better; when I think about it I was surrounded by people who were afraid to die!  And there was all this stuff about sin and judgement.  Death and disease were seen as a product of sin.  I was probably well through my 30s before I started to see death as a natural process, and my heart gladdened at the thought of one day being compost and being a member of the natural world, and not a foreigner in it!

Potting is a very wholesome and marvellous thing.  When I get my hands into clay I have a sense of wonder and respect for it.  My fingers are sticky with history.  And this is History with a capital "H" that is measured in a vast scale, in geological time not in puny human terms.  The clay that I make a mug with was probably once part a hard rocky mountain that weathered away millions of years ago, long before the first hairy human stood on their short little legs!

Me getting my hands in some clay.  Photo by Rhonda.

When I am tempted to feel overwhelmed with human things, it is most therapeutic to look out at something vaster and greater.  It is also helpful to be absorbed in the "now" and not tied to the past, or threatened by the future. Clay spinning slowly on the wheel can help with that.

Now, here is a thought.....

If you left your granite kitchen bench out in the rain and frost for millions and millions of years, it could become potter's clay, just like the clay I use!  Amazing isn't it!

Of course, whilst all this end of the world stuff has been going on, I have been busy.  Below are a couple of photos.  The first are mostly bowls waiting to be loaded into my electric kiln for a stoneware glaze firing.  And the photo below that is of some new work drying on top of the kiln whilst the glaze firing is going on.

The kiln is due to be unloaded tomorrow.... the day after the end of the world!

Well, the end of the world (for the rest of you) happens in 7 hours 52 and 06 seconds... I just thought you would appreciate an update!

And as you can tell, the end of the world hasn't happened here as yet....

What's that??? Is that my smoke alarm going?  I'll just go and......


Christine said...

So to get in just in time.... good post, I enjoyed reading that, thanks. It would be a pity not to get your pots out, but then you wouldn't know I suppose. I have two kilns of glaze to unpack tomorrow, I wonder if I will see them? Better check my smoke alarm batteries......

Armelle Léon Bitterolf said...

Ha, ha ha !!! Nice teapots Peter :-)

cookingwithgas said...

you said what I have been thinking- again? really?- that is so hale-bop, so last year and so 2000... end or no end carry on.

Judy Shreve said...

reminds me of the song 'everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die.'

Great post and being about the same age - also remember all the other times the world has ended.

Love seeing your work all lined up.

Happy holidays to you and Laura!

Arkansas Patti said...

Really loved this post Peter. Well done. Ha ha, I knew your country would be the first to go so I am pleased that you are still potting and alive. Your country is the planet's canary in the mines:))
I did think the other day the end might be near when I actually bought gasoline for $2.98:))
Wishing you and Laura a wonderful Christmas and 2013.

Linda Starr said...

what a lovely photo of the water and clouds and the rose in the vase on your table, happy holidays to you and Laura and the kittens, they're always kittens aren't they?

Peter said...

Happy Christmas to you all!

Hi Christine,
Good to hear from you, it is the early hours of "tomorrow" now and I am happy to report that we're still here, and I am looking forward to popping open the kiln lid soon! Hope your glaze firings have been successful.. I guess we are all in that busy pre Christmas time with potting!

Bonjour Armelle,
Ah, you noticed the teapots! I hope to bisque fire them today. It was nice to make some more teapots, I enjoy doing them.

Hi Meredith,
Hale-bop, I'd forgotten that one.., yes we are also dodging comets and asteroids, the odd black hole, and
gamma rays! It is all rather exciting!

Hi Judy,
Love that song! Good to hear from you. What was truly miraculous about the work lined up on the kiln was that I did fit nearly all of it in the kiln for the firing (just 4 small bowls will have to wait until next time!).

Hi Patti,
Yup, or should I say "chirp!" we're still here! You are right about us being the planet's canary. We'll definitely be amongst the first to go with any of the dooms day predictions, as Dooms Day will hit us first! Probably we should use this as a marketing tool... Various government PR types have tried to brand NZ as "Knowledge Economy", "Clean and Green", and so on, I think "Kiwi, the planet's canary" has a ring to it!! Mmmmm gasoline prices... I'm wondering if our vehicle will run on home made wine!! Hick!

Hi Linda,
I thought it was nice to be reminded of something beautiful. The stretch of water is the lagoon that is a short walk from where we live. Lovely bird life there.

I was thinking how lucky we are to be able to have Christmas pudding and roses from the garden on the same table... one advantage of Christmas in summer!

Our "kittens" are an ongoing source of delight, and it is nice to see them both curled up on the bed as I write this.

Astrid Raats said...

Glad to wake up this morning and find the world intact and a beautiful day!

Merry Christmas Peter and Laura, have a brilliant new year!

Michèle Hastings said...

A wonderful, thought provoking post. I had to read excerpts of it to my partner Jeff.
and those teapots... lovely.

Peter said...

Hi Astrid,
Good to hear from you, and it is a lovely day out here, warm but with a nice breeze blowing to keep things from getting too hot! Merry Christmas to you too, and do pop in and see us sometime if you ever drive out this way, it would be nice to catch up.

Hi Michèle,
That's nice to hear, thank you for that. Hope you and Jeff have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Amy said...

I just laughed reading this post. How funny! Smoke alarms, really? Thank you for the laughter and for the warnings about the end of the world.
In your last picture, are those pots meant for yarn? Looks like they have openings curly q's or something that are carved---- or is that decorative?

All the best-
Merry Christmas (if we're here that long!) and a Happy New Year!

Peter said...

Hi Amy,
Good to hear from you now 2 days after the end of the world! You are right, the pots in the last picture are for yarn, and the curly openings are for the yarn to come through. I might say a bit more about them in my next post, they are currently cooling after bisque firing yesterday.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too! P

Anna said...

a great post Peter. I hope you don't mind if I share a link to my Facebook page.
If you do let me know and I'll take it off.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

gz said...

I think that it might just feel like the end of the world....or the end of the world as they know Samoa and Fiji after Cyclone Evan.....

Peter said...

Hi Anna,
lovely to hear from you, thank you for your comment. No problem at all with you sharing a link to your Facebook page, that is nice of you.
Happy Christmas to you too. P

Hello Gwynneth,
Good to hear from you. A sad and sobering thought about Samoa and Fiji, Those affected by the Cyclone will be having a really hard time this Christmas Season, and we do think of them.