The tea and the incense arrived at the same time. They were ordered from very different places. Yet here I am, looking at the tiny hot orange dot in the darkness, still feeling the energy of the freshly prepared Kuradashi Matcha, I just had the privilege to drink.
I sat down and began to imagine how many people it took to make this moment possible. There is no way for me to ever meet them or to know them all, but there are so many of them, right now, completely unaware that I am just admiring the fruits of their hard work.
Yes, machines were involved in the making of this moment too, of course. But these machines did not create themselves. The rocks that were used to grind the tea did not create themselves with a precision that is necessary to deliver just the right grade of tea powder. The jars in which the tea had been stored since May did not fire and glaze themselves either. They did not fill themselves and they did not put themselves into a place with just the right temperature, for months, just to be opened at the beginning of October, to be celebrated and processed.
The tea did not travel here to me, on literally the other side of the world, from its own power. And even the writing on the box that arrived was written by someone’s hand.
The very idea of the cardboard box was first made reality just a few blocks from here in DUMBO. But the box with tea came from Kyoto, and it was likely put together somewhere else, from cardboard that was yet from somewhere else and with pulp that might have had a previous life yet somewhere else.
I know who created my tea bowl. I am grateful that I can be in touch with master Shoraku III. And I know who repaired the bowl when I somehow accidentally broke it earlier this year. And I am grateful for that too.
But who cut into the trees to release the sap that then made the lacquer used to repair the bowl? And who planted the trees? Could I even find out who went out to the river near Uji to look for the rocks that then were turned into the raku glaze that so incredibly covers the surface of the bowl I just used? And was the shape and size of the bowl really created for the Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony? The bowl is a constant reminder that often to be bold, we need to be humble. Just one of the many lessons encoded in the simple act of making tea.
I can’t even start to think about the effort it took to create the simple looking stick of incense I just let burn down in front of me. The precious wood had to be found, but only after it was able to grow and then be infected with a fungus to become what it is. The incredible effort and struggle that had to happen is beyond my comprehension.
Being able to describe all this, even ineptly is also something I should be grateful for, since even the word grateful has an origin, as does every one of its letters. The keys I am using to write these very words are connected to a small machine that handles code as if it were magic.
And at the moment you are reading this, I am most likely nowhere near, yet inside of your head, using your very voice to follow some of my thoughts. And I am not even being original. Everything I am thinking right now is based on something that is connected to billions of strands of ideas and struggles and accomplishments. Some of them human. Most of them possibly like those of the Phialophora parasiticathat turned some piece of Aquilaria tree into one of the most precious raw materials on the planet. Who is to say that their human expression, no matter how ingenious can even begin to compete with that interplay of tree and fungus.
And let’s not forget the water. As an accomplice and catalyst to so much that we now see around us, it has been here again and again, constantly shapeshifting and intertwining. The water that quenched the thirst of the trees that have since turned into the oil we seek and burn, that very water is still here and here again, after countless cycles of service to the progress of it all.
I am an insignificant and quite ignorant blip in the context of this universe of interdependence. But at this very moment I feel blessed to feel the intersection of infinite possibility.
Has this moment passed? Or is each one of them more worth admiring.
We can’t stand still, or can we?
Will there be a point when the curtain falls and the entire cast of the performance comes forward to take a bow in front of an endless audience that co-created the universe?
Or is this moment right now?