I am puzzled by one of the stories Martin Buber collects in Tales of the Hasidim: The Early Masters trans. Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1947)
Once the Baal Shem said to his disciples: “Just as the strength of the root is in the leaf, so the strength of man is in every utensil he makes, and his character and behavior can be gauged from what he has made.” Just then his glance fell on a fine beer jug standing in front of him. He pointed to it and continued: “Can’t you see from this jug that the man who made it had no feet?”
When the Baal Shem had finished speaking, one of his disciples happened to pick up the jug to set it on the bench. But the moment it stood there it crumbled to bits.
This seems like a piece of techno-determinism. Although it is difficult to see fault with a jug made by a man with no feet. Many a jug, after all, is footless.
On rereading the story it seems that it may be more about the bench than the jug : ) Never trust a disciple’s hand and a bench. You however gotta love the lame potter for providing such a good story.
And by some cultural interference, I am reminded of the lines in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in which are rendered the cry of the nightengale: “Jug jug jug jug jug jug / so rudely forc’d. / Tereu”. And what use is there in a universe in constant metamorphosis for the need to be reading character and behaviour from objects? Is not the tale equally about attitudes towards objects — and the goodness of whether I preserve or destroy depends not only upon the object in question but to what purpose…
And so for day 859