Wednesday, May 18, 2011

this cup is already broken

"One day some people came to the master and asked 'How can you be happy in a world of such impermanence, where you cannot protect your loved ones from harm, illness and death?' The master held up a glass and said 'Someone gave me this glass, and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight. I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. I know this glass is already broken, so I enjoy it incredibly.'"

~~Achaan Chah Subato, Thai meditation master

I first read this years ago, long before I was practicing buddhism...and it really stuck with me....although I could swear that the word "incredibly" was replaced by "completely"....and I could also swear that he was talking about a "cup" and not a "glass".... and I only tell you about these silly little differences, because when I completely broke my favorite cup the other day, this is exactly what resounded in my head:

I know this cup is already broken; so I enjoy it completely.

Okay. Maybe it's not broken completely. It is just chipped. I do know the difference.

But let me tell you the story of this cup. I first saw it in a Peet's Coffee shop and I did not buy it because....well, sheeit...ask me if I really need another coffee cup, right?? I actually had to exercise huge amounts of self-restraint to resist buying that cup, because when I saw this cup, it brought me straight back to Paris in one big whooshing sweep of memories. I will never forget that trip, nor the moment in time that this cup reminds me of.

I was in France for two and half weeks as an exchange student during culinary school. It was a weekday morning, very early, and none of my traveling companions were awake yet. I slipped out of the hostel we were staying in, hopped on the Metro, took an exit on a whim, and when I came out of the station, there I was, next to a huge fountain on the banks of the Seine, with Notre Dame in view. There was a corner cafe, and I sat down for the best cappuccino and croissant I have ever had in my life, and I watched Parisians rushing to and fro getting to work as the sun came up and the fog lifted. I will never forget it, nor how I felt (the excitement of travel and history and all things foreign and adventurous!), and this damn cup had the power to bring it all back.

And out of self-restraint, I didn't buy it that day that I saw it at Peet's,

And out of lack of control and sentiment, I went back to buy it....and it was gone.

And then a few weeks later, I just happened to be in another Peet's in a different location, and it was there, and I practically took down a display shelf lurching at it crying, "mine! mine! mine!"

This cup transports me to Paris every single time I sip from it. I love this cup. So much so, that about a month ago, I was thinking that I realllllly needed to get rid of a few mugs from the cupboard as it was becoming crowded, and I shit you not, I said to myself, "You know...I really don't need more than one mug. If I were to keep just one, which one would it be??" And of course this is the one that wins (ask me if I actually tossed out the others, and I will hear a lazy slacker saying no).

I am attached to this mug.

I dropped the mug the other day, and it's not "broken broken", but it has chips all over the brim. No, I was not drinking from the the mug all chipped up like's just been moving around the house from place to place as I cannot seem to bring myself to throw it out. There it is in that photo right next to the laptop and my bagel crumbs as I type this. Why is it next to the laptop?? So I could google around and try to find a about that for attachment?!!!!! Sheesh. And now, as I sit here getting ready to toss it, I am of course thinking I should really try to find a way to re-purpose it somehow or something. Like here I am, in my mind, breaking it up into pieces and embedding the shards into cement and making little garden stepping stones for the new house ....because I cannot let go of this impermanent THING.


Yes, I know I am attached to memories, not the mug. Yes, I know that even if the mug is gone, I still have the memories (although spend a few weeks visiting convalescent hospitals like I do, and you'll know that the memories aren't always permanent either, but least you could have your mug to maybe jog 'yer noggin'). I know that I should probably just quit being wistful about Paris for crying out loud, and just go back....because I have wanted to ever since.

I think what I have always got out of this little buddhist broken cup story, is the notion of enjoying things while you have them. And I do that. But I never quite got to the part where you contemplate the fact that you don't have to be attached to the thing if you recognize that it isn't always going to be there anyhow.

And the cup is now back on the kitchen counter again LOL.


Pickyknitter said...

OK I'm dumb, why can't you drink out of a chipped mug? If I threw out all my chipped mugs and plates I would starve.

Pickyknitter said...

PS. I like the idea of "the cup is already broken" - except in my house it is "the cat has already peed on this".

OK, oversharing.

Unknown said...

See, but I think repurposing it would be Buddhist too because it takes things so long to decompose in landfills that it's irresponsible to just throw things away in the name of embracing impermanence. Or something.

thestashattacked said...

Found some. Dunno if they're exactly the same, but they look very very similar.'Bistro-de-Paris'-Porcelain-Mugs,-Set-of-Four

~Donna~ said...

I say set up a lovely still life of the mug full of coffee, and a croissant...

Take a phote or two.

Hopefully you'll get something good enuf to frame and hang in a special place in your kitchen or wherever at the new place.

Sande said...

Plant your favorite kind of houseplant in it - a jade or verigated philadendrum - repurpose it and you'll still have it to make you remember.

Sande (a lurker)

Anonymous said...

Repurpose the cup - you''ll still have the memory jogger and it will make a nice small plant pot for a jade plant or a verigated philadendrum