Sunday, April 17, 2005

Of Thieves and Tea

As of Wednesday, the aforementioned security problem has been fixed, thanks to the quick work of the "X" Police Department, and their "working-over" of the thief in our midst. After several days of imagining the worst and wondering what my new career was going to be, it turns out that our exposure is relatively low; it could have been MUCH worse. It just goes to show, no matter how tight your security and processes might be, there's nothing to protect you from the heart of a dishonest person. Thankfully, that dishonest person actually admitted their to their crime under some fierce questioning by the Detective in charge, so maybe there's hope for them after all. Maybe...

Today we did a demonstration at the Trammell Crow Museum of Asian Art in Dallas. It went well, despite the remarkably uncooperative efforts of the museum docents and facilities personnel. Sensei had brought her very expensive lacquered miso no dana (tea table) and a large red lacquered umbrella, the one we saw at Hatsugama (New Year's Tea). The room allotted for our demonstration was quite small, even for the Crow, who's square footage doesn't amount to much more than our office, which is just under 6000sqft. The only way we could position the umbrella was to stand it under the rectangular recesses where the halogen lights are mounted. Otherwise, the ceiling was about 5 inches too low. Tanaka-san said the last time they did a demonstration there, he just unscrewed one of the bulbs, so it wouldn't cook the lacquered surface of the umbrella, just 1.5 inches away. The facilities personnel adamantly refused to let him unscrew it, or even point it away from the umbrella, since it had been "professionally positioned" to illuminate some jade pieces displayed in the wall. AS IF it couldn't just be repositioned later or that the bulb was somehow more important than Sensei's tea equipment. They showed very little accomodation to the woman who was, for all purposes, doing the demonstration FOR FREE. It reminded me of one reason I didn't continue my docent training there. Nevermind my krazy schedule or the gossipy culture, it was the snooty attitude that turned me off. It was, however, a little gratifying to come back as the ATTRACTION, rather than as a dilletante and self-satisfied know-it-all. I know that sounds harsh, but I've learned WAY more, spending time with Sensei, actually DOING, rather than reading and theorizing. I'm going to lament once more that this treasure trove of culture and esthetic sensibility is moving to Michigan.

The audience had to pay a $10 admission, $20 if they weren't dues-paying members of the museum. They included the usual fare of well-to-do retirees, although there were several younger people in attendance. They all seemed genuinely interested in the ceremony and had many questions for Melissa, who was giving the "color commentary" as we performed. Some of the questions surprised me in their obvious "goal-oriented" nature: how long does it take to learn chanoyu? How many guests can take part? Is the goal to become a host? I can't say I've never asked those questions before, but after having studied only a few short months, they seemed to miss the point of chanoyu. At first I was all about knowing exactly what to do and when, why it's done that way, and unconsciously setting a bench-mark whereby I would know that I had "attained" a certain level of proficiency. But now I realize that it's not about the mechanics so much, though they are important, but more about the experience and the leaving behind of mundane, daily thoughts. I could always appreciate the tea implements and the atmosphere of the tea room, the history lessons and the language exposure, but what I will really miss is how the practice of chanoyu leaves a clearing in the mind, brushing away all the accumulated effluvia of the past week. I truly hope our little tea circle can maintain that feeling without Sensei.


Blogger taj said...

Ain't a damn thing wrong with this little blog, baybuh...just needs some pictures. Of course, so does mine...but I'm not sure how to make the pictures happen. But YOU put 'em in and then show me how to do it! ';)

April 18, 2005 12:41 PM  

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