Funeral urn by Charles LaFond.
My friend Charles LaFond is a potter. He is also a man who understands how to make space sacred, whether it is the space inside of which life unfolds or a space between two people deepening into friendship and ever-generative mutual blessing. He is also cheeky while being earnest, and his work plays constantly with the dance of the sacred and the profane. His funeral urns, for example, come with his own cookie recipe, and he encourages you to use them as cookie jars until you expire, after which your body, which by that time will be composed of the most amazing cookies, can be stored within.
Today I was in a local gallery here on Bowen Island talking to one our local artists, Kathleen Ainscough whose work explores liminality, and especially the space where the natural world encounters the built environment. We dove deep into the subject of containers. I brought up Charles because we discussed how containers impart meaning to the things they contain. This is true of both the physical world and the social world. Kathleen noted that we carry french fries in disposable containers, making our meal meaningless. It’s a different story if you were to eat those same french fries out of your own funeral urn!
The point here, of course, is that life is enriched by meaningful experiences, and those experiences can often be induced with the emergence of a powerful and thoughtful container and a set of practices that helps us move from one world to another. Even in the example of eating french fries, there is something different, if only marginally, in eating fish and chips from a container made from one’s own local newspaper, than it is eating one from a piece of waxed paper with a fake newspaper printed on it. The same meal becomes a little different, a little bit more meaningful.
Containers induce meaning. If we meet in disposable settings, the contents of those meetings are likely to be just as disposable. If we don’t have time to build a thoughtful social container at work, then we can’t expect thoughtful responses to important challenges. No, you cannot do the same quality of work in a one-hour meeting as you can in a four-hour meeting. The emergence of rich social containers does not happen in a short stand-up meeting. Similarly, if our conversations happen on meaning-depleted social media pages, they are likely to be thin on relationality and thoughtfulness. Many of us prefer the slower conversations that happen in places like this blog, or in physical life, than on the endlessly scrolling field of social media sites.
The container itself is intimately connected to the meaningfulness of what happens within. Even in the play of sacred and profane, it is about the attention we give to what surrounds things and experiences that builds the importance of what takes (its) place within.