Culture & Society

  • Issue 107 / September - October 2015



    Sculpture of the Carpenter

    Sumayya B. Sharaf

    As always, on the eve of his birthday, he planned a new sculpture in his mind. He brought the right books to get inspired, he opened the garage door to hear birds chirping, and he breathed deep the fresh morning dew. Was it possible to carve out the soul by adding a new shape to a mold of clay? "Yes, I'm carving out the sculpture of my human soul from the carnal," said the carpenter. Then I will continue making a vessel. Though I make it, I do not sail it. My part is limited to patch the pieces together; I cannot rule over the sea or the vessel.

    The carpenter was an orphan, and grew up alone. He learned to calm his temper by taking certain parts of the sculpture out and giving the whole a symmetrical shape. "This touch of hammer is for yesterday's anger," he said.

    The pupil listened, his eyes wide open.

    "If you do not take out something, you will never get shape," he whistled, the pencil between his teeth. He drew another line after some calculations on the nose of sculpture, then took a sip from his coffee. In the old days, in Boston, it would've been tea. "Now we all drink Columbian coffee," he murmured as if he were a New Englander.

    "You know," he continued. "To take out some part of you, it's useful to get to know the human inside and build something from the inside out ... but, you know, it is not enough! You will need to nurture your soil to make it into shapeable clay. You need to sow a hundred good intentions, and even if some fade away, that's ok. The twenty will save the day. Also, if one has a hundred good wishes for each new day, even though you cannot achieve one thing out of a hundred immediately, that wish will make your humanity flourish. You know, people are like planes. From the ground they look like they are following a steady path, but nay. You either go higher or lower. The moments when a plane looks steady from the ground are often moments of turbulence. So my son, each day you have to carve out some and nourish the rest. Be careful, if you carve out without nourishing the clay, you will loose the sculpture. If a human has no soil left, and you replace it with arrogance and cruelty, neither sun or rain can nourish that mud. Those days are when seeds meet with stones or mud; if you do not keep up your soil, you will harvest the worst. Those are moments of death." "What is the worst?" asked the pupil.

    The carpenter continued, "have I ever told you the story of milk and butter?"

    "Nope," the child responded.

    "You know, if milk goes bad, it may ferment into yogurt, right? What happens if it does not turn into yogurt? It becomes, cheese or butter. But what happens if butter goes bad? Nothing: it smells terrible and is of no use. This is what happens when we do not nourish the soil by scything or letting it rest for a year after harvest... If one looses the thin layer of humanity, you become less than an animal. Animals have a dignity of their own; such a human would not, son. Take care of that thin layer that keeps you alive as a human. You know, sometimes humans lose their humanity when they became carnivores. I do not only mean wars. There is more. If you gossip, that kills society. No trust, no truth, no humanity!

    "Soil and nature are the best books I have. Those make me closer to my human self."

    I looked at sky. It rained as if it never did since a year in Boston. I left my soil to reach its sculpture under the rain clouds, as fresh as the smell of a new day. One day, I hope when I also become a human sailor in the vessel of this body, I will reach the limits of existence in the form of humanity. It is my duty to shape the soul as a sculpture, to sail this vessel. But this human soul is not mine. As a sculpture, I am weak, after all. It is on the Artist to make His art breath with life: The Artist, who gives the tools in the form of books we read in universe, in scripture, and in human souls.

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