Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Cracked Pot: NOT Crack and Pot

posted by Beyond Blue

In keeping with the theme of being a tad messed up, but using the mess toward some holy end, here’s a lovely Buddhist story about the purpose of a cracked pot that reader Lisa shared on the message board of my “The Return of Enjoyment” post back in August, and reader BGG contributed to the “Charles Schulz: Melancholy and Humor” post earlier this month:

A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, of delivering a full portion of water. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was only able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer and said, “I am ashamed of myself.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water bearer said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of his path. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

  • Babs

    In line with this tale, I have often thought that the gifts we have are not necessarily the ones we recognize. I pray that God will use my gifts, focusing on my obvious abilities, rather than perceiving my flaws as gifts that can be used by the Creator. When through circumstances beyond our control we lose some exceptional ability, even a fine intellect, we think we have little to offer the world. But when the veneer of our “gifts” is rubbed off, I think the real beauty and depth shows through.
    When I think of the helplessness of old age or terminal illness like my sister suffered, I shudder at the thought of being dependent upon another for the most basic needs (diapers!) or needing to be fed. But I pray that if that time comes, God will help me receive infirmity with grace so that my response to weakness will be a blessing to someone else, like my sister’s was, and like I saw my father-in-law’s be to his children and grandchildren. His gift of humility (and he was not by nature a humble person – quite the contrary) transformed them all.
    Before you jump in with the comment that not everyone has that experience, I will beat you to the punch and acknowledge that. I am speaking very specifically about one aspect of life and one type of gift. As scripture says, there are many gifts. The point of my comment is that like the cracked pot, our beauty and usefulness in the cosmos is oftentimes not what we believe it to be. In finding some peace in life, I think we have to consider that.

  • Larry Parker

    I am starting to realize (starting, after almost 40 years on this earth!) that the gift I thought G-d wanted me to use is not the gift G-d actually wants me to use. Or at least, G-d wants to put a twist on it in a different direction. And I am coming to appreciate and value that.
    The problem is, I have an easier time helping others than myself (not saying I’m Mother Teresa, more to say I have such a HARD time helping myself) so it still gives me little “peace in life.”

  • Jim G

    I had emailed the author of “Philosophy for Dummies,” which I bought and read, 7 or 8 years ago, I can’t remember what the question was. But I mentioned I was struggling with bipolar at the time. He emailed back in part, “you have to be a little cracked to see the light.” Since he was/is a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, I didn’t take the quotation lightly. I am assuming it is his own, although maybe he had heard or read it somewhere else I don’t know.
    At any rate, it is said humans don’t use most of their brain, only a small potential of it. Full blown mania I think uses much more of our brain than normal. Either that or it uses the same part but a lot more intensely. I realize it is believed it causes brain damage, and perhaps that is why the depression follows mania. But I think it is an enlightenment experience also, spiritually enlightening. Our spirit isn’t cracked. The flip side of breakdown is breakthrough. So I actually believe there is something to the grandiose religious experience that most fully manic experiences have. It is very easy to write off as “psychosis” from a psychiatrists or scientists point of view. But what if it is a real experience that raises our soul to a higher level?
    Of course I would not wish full blown mania upon anyone, because of the ensuing consequence of severe depression which follows. One week of heaven, followed by months of hell. At least in my case I did improve over time though and am in a good place, although dependent on an anti depressant. I am sure I still have some damaged brain cells though, but many of them seem to have healed, either that or my brain has adapted and has learned to compensate by using other brain cells that were not damaged.

  • Jim G

    … That goes back to the possibility that everything happens for a reason thing, as well. (Bad things which cause bad stress can cause the crack.)

  • Babs

    I read the cracked pot story and focused on the cracked pot. But what if I am the water bearer? I have taken something flawed and rather than throwing it into the refuse pile, decide that it can still serve a purpose: in this case to create beauty. The first choice, to dispose of it, seems like a rational choice. But the second seems to be the deeper one. It involves observing how I carry the water pots, the pattern of the leakage, and thought about how to integrate what I’ve observed into the greater scope of my labor.
    How, or why, the pot became cracked is secondary to what I have decided to do after observing the flaw.
    This is what I love about stories like these, and the parables of Jesus. If I take the time to reflect, I can come to a radically different “take” on life than what is the usual or expected.
    Therese, thanks for writing this today. It has given me a lot to chew on.

  • Babs

    Larry — re your gifts: maybe it isn’t either/or; how about both/and?

  • Larry Parker

    I probably wasn’t clear. I DO think it’s “both/and.”
    BTW, when you focused on the water bearer, it highlights the fact that with the stigma of mental illness, there are few others in the world without our disease who see us as “cracked pots” instead of “crackpots” — which is, of course, one the struggles we face.

  • Wisdum

    So much of Life is perspective (and perspective is everything!) Many years ago I saw this movie called Long Ships (1964) starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier. Widmark was a Viking, in Arabia, and was captured, and was about to be killed, when he mentioned a giant gold bell. He talked them into not killing him until he helped them find it. At the end of the movie, they still killed him…by crucifixion, upside down. At the bottom of the cross, there was a sign, that said “Greater Love hath no man, than he who would sacrifice his Life for his enemy”… 20 years later, it dawned upon me the significance of that sign, that was indeed a greater Truth. Yeshuah said “Greater Love hath no man, then He who would give up his Life for a friend” and I had to take a very hard look at that … why did He say that ? And then a moment of enLightenment … I His mind (as crazy as that may seem)He had no enemies ! … and that is what allowed Him to say “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do !” … Talk about Uncompromising, Unconditional Love !
    LUV 2 ALL

  • Margaret Balyeat

    I was raised by an interesting combonation of [arents: An abusove alcoholic father who believed in Mother Nature rather than Gpd ( Although in the end, he did admit to a belief in God as welland spoke about going to Heaven and a nearly-saint of a mother who was as spiritual as they come (and also the classic enabler who “protected” my father from the consequences of his drinking for years! I never heard or saw my mother jusge or fail to open her heart to ANYONE,

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Here O go AHAIN! Maybe this is my computer’s way of trying to rein me in when I start to ramble(?) The point I was trying to make is that forgiveness/acceptance from my mother wasn’t something anyone had to request; it was already given Later in life when I began participating in adult children of alcoholics) meetings and reading books about my role in the dysfunction of an alcoholic family and how that shaped my adult life, I began to wonder if perhaps it was my mother’s unconditional love which made her such a classic enabler in the first place! If that’s true, it’s not necessarily a “good thing” (My apologies to Martha Stewart) since we know that an addict must face his or her consequnces (hit rock bottom) in order to accept/admit the problem and begin a successful twelve step recovery. I know my mother prevented my father from reaching that bottom on more than one occasion by dealing with bill collectors, making excuses to extended family members and the like. He did eventually join A.A, although he only attended for a short time and never really quit drinking, not even at the very end when the cancer and cirrhosis in his liver had him on his death bed. He was never able to transotopm from active into recovering alcoholism. I often wonder if my mother had been less loving/forgiving if he might have been able to cross that bridge. While I know we all must forgive in order to receive forgiveness for our own sins,and I tend to be a pretty forgiving woman myself (sane-sex role model?) I’ve come to believe that there is a happy medium in this area like there ids in many of life’s struggles. It wasn’y until after my mother’s death and the start of my ACOa work that I understood that some of my “issues”–and we ALL have them–were actually with my mother and not with my father. On the acvice of my therapist, I visited my mother’s grave site and poured out my heart which unleashed those issues (Why didn’t you LEAVE him? Why couldn’t you protect me (the SCAPEGOAT) BETTER? I fibally came to understand that for a woman of her (POst WWWOO) times who’d been forced to give up her professional carrer as a teacher because she married, she’d done the best she could by sending me to my room whenever Daddy was late coming home for dinner (a SURE sign that he’d been drinking) and telling me to remain there until she sent for me, but as a child that felt like ostracization and yet more evidence that I was the problem, and after many years of therapy I now believe it was the PTSD of that kind of childhood that sent me into my dance with the dog as a grown woman. My point? maybe unconditional love like everything else in life, has both a positive and negative component and shouldn’t be sought as a ,ental state by us mere mortals. after all, Jesus wasn’t an ACOA, He was both the Father AND the Son
    IN ONE ENTITY,and while he felt the pain of ostrasization from his Jewish community and eventually even from God as evidenced by his anguished cry from the cross about abandobment, He surely had more wisdom and nternal resources than any of us can lay claim to. There has to be a reason that the (Inspired) word of God DDOESimes at times call us to judge others even though those verses are less quoted than the onesabout not casting the first stone or our forgiveness being dependent on our forgiveness of others, and the Bible (CEARlY)states thatALL scripture is inspired by God and is useful for chastisement as well as edification. So perhaps our (my) attempts to be one who loves unconditionally and forgives without needing to be asked are an example of the ultimate windmill tilting. Maybe this kind of reasoning only show that my pot is obviously cracked, but insyead of nurturing beautiful blooms, my water has dribbled onto the thistles and tares, but it is, nonetheless, a place to which I’ve come from much introspection and prayer.

  • Lynne

    Quick note to Margaret. Look again at what Jesus said on the cross. He was not talking about his own abandonment, he was quoting Psalm 22! He always called God “Father” when he spoke to him. He was documenting in the word where His coming was prophesized and what would happen to him a thousand or so years before the fact!!! If you need evidence for the faith there it is. Be happy God is faithful.

  • Lynne

    Oh yeah, I loved the post about the cracked pot. Just goes to show you, everybody and everything has it’s place in the universe. Although sometimes I wonder about the upside of mosquitoes.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Lynne: i’m afeaid the only up side of misquitoes is for the companies who manufacture repellant sprays and citronella candles unless youinclude the bats who feed on them ib your survey.

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