Venetian glass doesn’t apologize for its weakness
Most of the time, we have to be strong.
We must not show our fragility.
We’ve known that since the schoolyard.
There is always a fragile bit of us, but we keep it very hidden.
Yet Venetian glass doesn’t apologize for its weakness. It admits its delicacy; it is confident enough to demand careful treatment; it makes the world understand it could easily be damaged.
It’s not fragile because of a deficiency, or by mistake. It’s not as if its maker was trying to make it tough and hardy and then – stupidly – ended up with something a child could snap, or that would be shattered by clumsy mishandling.
It is fragile and easily harmed as the consequence of its search for transparency and refinement and its desire to welcome sunlight and candle light into its depths. Glass can achieve wonderful effects but the necessary price is fragility. Some good things have to be delicate – the dish says: ‘I am delightful, but if you knock me about I’ll break, and that’s not my fault.’ It is the duty of civilization to allow the more delicate forms of human activity to thrive; to create environments where it is OK to be fragile. And we know, really, that it is not glass which most needs this care, it is ourselves.
It’s obvious the glass could easily be smashed, so it makes you use your fingers tenderly; you have to be careful how you grasp the stem. It teaches us that moderation is admirable, and elegant, not just a tedious demand.
It tells us that being careful is glamorous and exciting – even fashionable. It is a moral tale about gentleness, told by means of a drinking vessel.
This is training for the most important moments in life when moderation will make a real difference to other people. Being mature – and civilized – means being aware of the effect of one’s strength on others.
Alain De Botton