Enough for the Day: narratives that bind us


bowl receiving water vietnam

But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition–and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation–and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity. 

 – Joseph Conrad, excerpt from “The Nigger of the Narcissus”

As I speculated about the uncertain evolution of this project at its onset, I wondered whether the vessels would loose meaning as they left the immediacy of those who knew me and the intent of the Passage.

I personally know nearly all of the first 108 receivers of vessels, only a few in the second group, and in the developing groups of third, fourth and fifth receivers, I know none of the people who currently have Patra vessels. This was planned – they have now all left my orbit and launched into other places and lives. At about the midway point of the passage, there are over three hundred participants ranging in age from five to ninety years old. Of these I know only four.

Are the vessels merely odd objects floating out there from hand to hand without much resonance as they drift further from my acquaintance? Though perhaps the experience lacks substance for some, its radiance seems more often true. That this energy has not diminished is one of the best surprises to me in the experiment. As the Patra are now in the hands of hundreds of people unknown to me, I’m so pleased that many of you are connecting with important stories both on the website and by personal email. Your interest and comments are a gift returned however you view or use the bowls. The Patra Passage is taking me, and I hope you as well, to some places and people never visited.

In this last month I’ve been especially aware of the narratives that bind us together “the dead to the living and the living to the unborn” as Conrad states. In this intersection of lives of Patra members I am aware of two weddings celebrated with a Patra vessel present at the ceremony, one baby  born, and two other babies soon to take their first breaths. And  sadly one participant has died. Martha discussed her last days on the website; two others have lost a family member; several still struggle with difficult illness. I mention these experiences not because they are weightless statistics, but because they are deep life stories that do indeed connect us. Stories, large and small, told or untold, are part of what fill these vessels with joy, despair, pathos and wonder.

The “art” in the Patra Passage, if it happens at all, occurs within the context of our life situations, what is brought to bowl. The condition of the encounter is as much a part of the object as its physical materials. What connect us in this growing community lies within the mysteries and discoveries of our common experiences.

“Things that have an affinity in their inmost natures seek one another.”       – Mikkel Aaland, “The Sword of Heaven

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