This is my new friend Bob. We met in a diner in the middle of the desert—the only place of it’s kind for eighty miles in any direction. Bob saw my bike, my dirty clothes and disheveled hair, and my wide-eyed state after days pedaling like mad through the desert, and was kind enough to buy me breakfast.
Bob used to be a minister. Now he is a glass-blower in Sante Fe. He is also a sensitive and compassionate human, and an all-around great guy. Over breakfast we talked of a number of things, and I wish I could include them all. As I cannot, I’m going to tell you about one particular aspect that really got my attention.
Bob told me that when he interned as a minister, at the first church where he served, the head minister was sleeping with some of the younger women in the congregation. Eventually he was discovered and kicked out of the church, but for a long time nobody knew (except the women, of course, and they didn’t know about each other). Appearances said that everything was fine, but it wasn’t; nobody knew what was going on but even so the minister’s loss of integrity flattened the congregation. Because his attention was on his desire for pleasure instead of his job, his calling to serve, and on God, everything he did failed. It was hollow, empty, and without real inspiration.
I imagine that just about anyone could see themselves reflected in this story of the head minister. I certainly can. I have those same desires within me, as well as the same self-deception that would lead me to act on them in inappropriate ways. The minister was duped, essentially, and hopefully he learned from the experience. This was not Bob’s essential point, however. He is fascinated by the way the man’s loss of integrity disabled his creativity and power.
Bob is an artist. He works in many mediums, but he loves in particular to blow glass. When he has the molten glass on the rod, he told me, and he puts his breath into it, he feels as if he is channeling divinity into form. He says it’s like he disappears; he becomes simply a conduit for life force to become something beautiful. Of course, he loves that experience above every other, and it’s the thing that has made an artist out of him. He has learned, however, that if he is out of integrity in any aspect of his life—with his wife or children, with his co-workers or students, in relationship to money or his personal habits—then it doesn’t work. He may still go to the studio and blow glass, but the inspiration is not there. The road that divinity travels down on it’s way to the glass is clogged by the confusion in his loss of integrity. Bob told me that this fact has been a teacher to him for years, and likely will be for the rest of his life. He may (in my language) to be tempted to indulge conditioned mind, but he knows if he does it then he will lose the joy he finds in his art. It’s just not worth it to him.
The same applies to all of us, it seems to me. We may not blow glass, but we are all artists in the sense of creating this life that we live, and we all lose touch with our inspiration when we neglect our authentic goodness.
One more story. Bob says he sometimes puts on public shows where people can buy his glass. Occasionally it happens that a small girl or boy will break away from his parents, run to his display, and stare in wonder and the colors and the shapes, unable to remove their their eyes. When that happens, Bob said, he will take a small piece and put it in the child’s little hands and say, “My friend, you are an artist. Take joy in your gift, and never let anyone take it away.” Isn’t that beautiful? When he told me the story we both cried, right there in the diner. Such a thing is not possible when the heart is burdened by lust and shame, by greed and righteousness. It can only happen when the heart is pure.
Thank you, Bob, for being who you are.