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The Master Teaches Perfection

      Each spring, the master potter would go to the village and sell his ware and visit the town to trade for supplies. There he would interview new student apprentices and his graduates would sell their work and begin their travels as journeymen.
      One of the first duties of the new apprentices was to help sell the work and observe what pieces would sell.
      The customers would try and barter with these youngsters to make them give a better price than they should take for the masters most noble efforts. The apprentices quickly learned how the master felt about each pot and how to tell a successful piece from a failure in the master's mind.
      Often, they would puzzle as to why a piece was priced the way it was. When questioned about it, the master would point out the numerous flaws to the piece. No matter what the price of the piece, the master found flaws within it. In this way the students began to realize just how critical their new master was of himself and his work and how critical he would be of their work. Still, it seemed that there was not always a correlation between the price of a pot and the size and shape and the amount of handwork done in decoration to achieve a suitable result for price of each piece. The apprentices were often puzzled by the way the master priced his pottery and asked the master's journeyman just what a good piece was and how the master managed to price each piece.
      The Journeyman just laughed and said that when they made their own pieces and gave them life and spirit; they would know at what price a piece of their soul should sell for.
      This answer did not please the students at all. They were not monks. They did not join a monastery to study religion and the ways of spiritual existence.
      These students' families had paid great sums to apprentice their sons to this famous craftsman. They had been working faithfull for many hours each day to learn their tasks and perform their duties faithfully in honor of their families' name. This master potter demanded much and expected the students utmost attention and desire to become a potter. Yet he and his journeyman would just laugh and speak in strange riddles and tell strange stories with many meanings that sounded more like a religion than a livelihood whenever the students asked the most simple question about the making of the craft.
      After the harvest season, the potters would pack up all the goods that they had traded for and go back to their mountain village to gather the materials for making pottery for the winter months.
      It was a great day for them to arrive home at their village. The village was alive with anticipation to see how the potters had faired in the market and to see what they had brought back in trade for the hard months of work making and selling their work. A new dress, some needles and thread, a new cooking stove, perhaps a new horse or some chickens and a scroll of tales or two were greatly appreciated.
      The simple peasant life that these people lived belide the spiritual and philosophical wisdom of a knowledge of the world. Often the most prized trade of the whole season was that of a single book of poetry or mystic writing by some great sage of an age gone by. After the evening meal, the master potter would read from one of these books and discuss the relevance of the writings with the Journeyman.
      The students would listen while they attended to their household chores. The students would comment among themselves before they went to sleep. Often they would review the lessons that they had learned that day. Often they would ask why the potter took so much time to study these poems and writings and ponder about the meaning of these strange passages...

      ... And, the Great Master apprenticed three students. These students worked long and hard to learn and master their chosen craft. Each learned every part of the craft, but excelled at one aspect of the craft.
      First, The Master taught the students to practice making each piece exactly identical. Each day they would meet for dinner and talk of art and how to make their craft better. They would look at each of their pieces and choose a piece and comment as to its form and execution. The master listened to their comments for many days and said little or nothing.
      Finally one day, his most able student asked him how the critiques were going. The master stroked his long beard and thought for a few moments. He picked up one of his simple pieces and broke it. The students were shocked...
      He smiled and said
      "This piece was perfect." and then he fell back to his silence.
      The students were amazed. After that, they gathered each day to look at the pieces and they would select the most perfect of the pieces that they could find and then they would brake it with great glee and ceremony.
      "A few more months rolled by and again his most able student called upon him during their meal to ask how the critique was going."
      The master looked at each of his students and said:
      "You have learned to find perfection and destroy it. You must now learn to find flaw and to make that flaw live."
      He choose a piece for each of his students that contained a flaw. He told each of them to study the flaw and to learn to make the flaw in each of the next days work. "
      Practice making this flaw so that all your pieces have this character," he said.
      So each student now practiced the flaw and learned how to make the flaw. The pieces were strange and mysterious. Each contained a flaw and the flaw added character to their pieces. The students learned to control the flaws by learning what made the flaw. They learned that the flaw could also be beautiful.
      Finally, the master said: "When I look at each of your pieces, I choose to see the best of the best and tell you how good it is. You choose the worst of the worst and tell each other how bad it is. Thus you learn from your mistakes, but not from your perfections. You have learned that a flaw is beautiful. You have learned that perfection is ugly. Now you must choose to see each piece in its own light."
      With that, he took all his work for that morning and smashed all but three pieces. He took these pieces and presented it to each of his students.
      When the students gathered again, they presented him with their most prized piece. Each piece was totally different than any of the others that the students had ever made. Each had character and life and form.
Russell Andavall
The FireGod