‘The vase provided me with a symbol for exploring the fact of impermanence.’

Thought for the week: Judy Clinton finds some noise in an empty vessel

‘The vase provided me with a symbol for exploring the fact of impermanence.’ | Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

It was our monthly mid-week Meeting for Worship. We were a small group: only three. The table, usually blessed on Sundays with a beautiful display of flowers, was bare, except for an attractive empty Grecian-style shallow pottery vase that stood on a hand-woven cloth.

I found myself drawn to this vase.
Being empty, it was in contrast to the filled vases that I am used to seeing. I became preoccupied with this emptiness. Seeing the outer form of the vase, and admiring its pattern and shape, I began to see this like the outer form of a person: their particular appearance and function. This vase was currently not fulfilling the function of a container: it was simply existing as it was, just being there. And it was empty of anything, except space.

I’ve been contemplating the mystery of life and death a great deal lately, so my thinking and my feelings moved on to pondering what would happen if the vase were to break: when the form that made it ‘vase’ fell into pieces. I experienced an inner ‘ouch’, as I always do when something or someone dies, or undergoes a loss of form or function. But quickly on the heels of this hurt came the recognition that what had been contained within the vase – air – had not ceased to exist, but had simply become part of the air which was within the room. The outside form of the vase might be broken into pieces, but these would simply be assuming a different form or forms in one way or another. It was impossible for something to simply disappear.

Intellectually this was not a new idea to me, but the vase provided me with a symbol for exploring the fact of impermanence and my thoughts and feelings around it; and for coming to a deeper understanding of death and loss. And this I found enormously comforting, even inspiring.

Of course, when a loved one dies, lack of the physical form of that person is painful and very real; we cannot get away from that. No spiritual insight makes up for a hug, or for the voice of the one who is gone. But now I can rest in the knowledge that the essence of this person has been freed from form and is in the sea of ever-present spirit. And I imagine, and have on rare occasions actually felt, that the person has not gone but is available to me in quite a different way. My experience is that this only occurs when I am in touch with the spirit of light and love which exists deep inside me.

With many thanks to the vase, and to the fact that it was empty!

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