Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tea cups made of bones

At a yard sale today my partner bought a belt. I bought a tea cup made out of bones. It does not matter if it was more valuable, because I am unlikely to give it up. There were other tea cups and saucers. I chose this one because the one with pretty blue flowers cost five dollars. It is paragon fine china and cost three dollars.

The British, wanting to make porcelain cups and dishes at home instead of paying for chinese porcelain, ground bones to mix with the local clay. Bones made the clay whiter. In China porcelain was made from a white clay fired at extremely high temperatures. Genuine porcelain glows just a little, is just a little bit translucent.

I am starting to learn that this is the way with history: Tea cups are made of bones. It is so very much the way of the British empire. To say 'yes, these people did great things; yes, it is beautiful, it was heroic, it is amazing' but look again. Look at the bones. We cannot praise the past, but I long to. The sun never set on the British Empire, and it was grand. But the imperialistic policies were used to subjegate the peoples of North America, and I live on land which they stole. In some places the land was fought for. Here we signed a treaty with the local people, and then built on the land which the treaty gave them.

I am a skeptic now. I doubt Plato, who thought that beauty, goodness, and justice were unalterably linked. But every time I find a thing of beauty I also find that other thing, like my tea cup made of bones. I think it adds to the beauty, but it's a good thing I'm not vegan.

No comments: