The Clay

Among my souvenir-collection I have been keeping is a clay sandal. This brown and glossy terracotta doesn’t have a pair. For me, its unique and one of a kind! It was given as a birthday present last year by the First Year Seminarians – Batch 2008. The clay making sessions were part of their Summer Class in Humanities. Ms Menchie Atienza brought her students somewhere in Danao to visit a house of pottery. They had the privilege to watch a potter work on his wheel transforming a dirty lump of clay into something of inestimable value. They also tried it themselves to experience the feel of being “creator.”

Since then I have treasured the gift because it aptly fits the concept of how I see myself. The sandal is the image of a traveler. I am this traveler. I see myself always on the go, nay – on the run! I am active and dynamic; I want to see places and visit new localities. I want to explore and seek adventure my health permitting. I see life itself as a journey, a long walk. Yet at the same time, the clay is an icon of frailty and fragility. It is soft and malleable prone to decay and destruction. Such too is humanity. And I am that also as the song goes: .. “a flower quickly fading / a wave tossed in the ocean / a vapor in the wind..” These powerful words have been inspired no less from scriptures.

At the beginning of time Scriptures tell us that God “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” Looking back at how man was conceived by the Master Engineer of all times, I am left amazed at how far man has arrived. Where did he get all these creativity and sense of beauty? How could such technological advancement enter into his finite and tiny mind to bring us into this digital world? For sure, what the Creator did has “sparked” more than just the breath of life. Along with it is the spirit, the genius, the talent that would give forth creativity and beauty which mirrors the face of God.

Lord Byron wrote an insightful poem that captures the paradox of man’s frailty and grandeur:

When coldness wraps this suffering clay,
Ah! whither strays the immortal mind?
It cannot die, it cannot stay,
But leaves its darken’d dust behind.
Then, unembodied, doth it trace
By steps each planet’s heavenly way?
Or fill at once the realms of space,
A thing of eyes, that all survey?

Eternal, boundless, undecay’d,
A thought unseen, but seeing all,
All, all in earth or skies display’d,
Shall it survey, shall it recall:
Each fainter trace that memory holds
So darkly of departed years,
In one broad glance the soul beholds,
And all, that was, at once appears.

Yet man continues to be restless and wandering looking for his other “pair.” As he journeys through this life, at times he fails to see his real worth. He does not recognize that he is simply an “earthen vessel” that carries the surpassing power of God. He has to realize that the only way to be “complete” is to return to His Maker to find this “other pair.” Otherwise he continues to be searching and seeking in emptiness. Yet even here God is infinitely patient and waiting. He is continually at work in the world even in you and me.