The Sculptor’s Tale: A Parable of the Soul

by jimowensjr

He considered the rough hewn block, assessing where to strike his first blow.  Heat and pressure and time had transformed limestone into marble.  Now, he would transform it into something remarkable.  With mallet in one hand and chisel in the other, pitching away large unsightly pieces at first, trying to find the vision within the stone that had dwelt within him for so long.  This would be his masterpiece.  The stone imprisoned a myth and he would release it.


His hands ached from gripping the steel chisel as every blow he struck shuddered through his bones.  His shoulders hurt.  Occasionally, he would pause to wipe crystalline drops of salt and moisture from his eyes.  Whether he was working during the burning heat of August or the bitter cold of February, it was always the same.  The perspiration came more from the tension of creating than from the swinging of the mallet.  This was no artist creating from some well of inspiration. This was a battle.


Sometime, he wasn’t quite sure when, the stone had become an enemy, something to be vanquished.  The stone had become an adversary, but his assaults would overwhelm it—until something beautiful and perfect and worthy could be set free.  After carving away the worst of it, he began to refine his work, taking away smaller and smaller pieces until he could begin the polishing.  The rasps and emery would file away the final imperfections.


As the vision emerged, his benefactors and others praised him, spreading word of his genius.  In the beginning, he fed on their praise like a hungry beast.    Remarkable, they said of the lucid eyes and noble nose he had carved.  They praised the perfection of it, noting the strength in its shoulders and neck.  And the hands, what a delicate power they revealed.  Yet amidst their reverence, the man with the hammer and chisel found no longer found nourishment.  There was no longer any solace or comfort here.


He realized the stone was not his enemy.  The battle he had waged had been against himself alone.  This myth of perfection had driven him, been his master—vainly, relentlessly hammering and chiseling and trying to polish his own soul.  He thought he heard something, cocked his head to listen.  Nothing.  What was that?  Silence.  Odd, he thought.  Somewhere deep within him, for the first time in so long, he heard the white noise of peace.  Something had died, yet there was nothing to mourn.  The myth was dead.


And he was completely alive.