The Lab: How to Enjoy Getting Dirty with Your Friends

Nov 14, 2020

Every week we send out the same message: “How many people are down to get dirty this Saturday?” 

For the past 8 weeks, we have been slowly building a cob wall as part of a new pottery studio at Commune Topanga. This natural building technique is excellent for our climate in Southern California — it will help keep the workshop cool in summer and warm in winter and uses only local, non-toxic materials (sand, clay, and straw).

It’s also unavoidably labor intensive, from digging and screening the soil to mixing the materials with bare feet and shaping it into a wall by hand. 

At first we were shy to ask people to spend a day of their weekend doing hard manual labor. But after several weeks we realized something magical: When you have a real need for another’s help, when you ask openly, and when you are truly grateful for their presence, people show up. And more than show up: they learn, they get covered in mud, and by dinnertime they are flush with the spirit of community. 

How often in our culture do we actually ask for help? And how often do we get to give fully of ourselves? Not often… And we are all a bit poorer because of it. As Khalil Gibran wrote, “to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving. …  And you receivers—and you are all receivers—assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings.”

When have you had to really ask for help? How did it feel and what happened?

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