Gerry Williams was the son of missionaries who ran a school in India. His father worked to improve sanitation there and built a septic tank, which was so novel that Gandhi made a point to see. Gandhi asked his father to build one for his house, which he did. Gerry says: “I never met Gandhi myself because we were in school when he came. But I have been deeply influenced by Gandhi over the years. The idea of handicraft and low agricultural economies, living in mud-brick homes, growing things, making things for use by other people.
“[Gandhi] also influenced me in my ethics and moral life. I became a pacifist and spent time in jail as a conscientious objector. He allowed me to say ‘what am I going to do with my life that will be ethical and politically responsible?’ Being a potter is what I came to believe the answer to that question was.”
A bit later, Av went to work while I visited Heifer International Village — Heifer’s mission is to help end hunger and poverty, and you may have seen their catalogs in which people may purchase livestock to be gifted to families in developing countries. Heifer’s work is more multi-faceted, but this area is the one in which I’m more familiar, as Av and I try to make certain that each Passover we purchase some animal(s) from the catalog for another family in honor of our seder guests.
One of the questions I was sure to ask was something that came up when I was reading reviews of the facility before my visit — there was some disagreement online as to whether the gifts are actually 100%. That is, if I purchase a goat, is someone in some other country actually getting a goat? I asked directly and was answered that yes, absolutely, purchase a goat, someone gets a goat. It’s not that I’ve purchased 70% of a goat and 30% goes to administrative costs. They said it’s just that easy. A purchase of a goat equals someone getting a goat.
It’s a sensational show – albeit in the pejorative sense of sensational. Meaning: Full of Teletubby colours and flash and bigness and strange shapes drawn from some Baudelairean fever dream or the remnants of an explosion on the set of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Meaning: Almost always relentlessly immodest, forever straining to elicit a slack-jawed “Wow” from the spectator. Meaning: Visually noisy, superficial, bereft of genuine nuance and subtlety, provocative but not thought-provoking.