Working With Stone (And hearts of stone too)

I’ve always been interested in certain trade skills. Cutting stone is one of them. To properly cut a stone one must have to be able to read the small lines that tell you where small faults are inside the stone. Stone cutting is thought to be a very masculine endeavor. The uninitiated often has visions of the stone cutter as a muscle bound brute striking mighty blows until the stone gives way. While it takes some elbow grease to wrestle a large piece of rock into place one doesn’t have to have extreme strength. Ancient technology like A-frames or block and tackle make it much easier.

But I really want to talk to you about the actual cutting process. It’s not about strength. It’s about control. A mighty blow with Thor’s hammer would be manly for sure but it’s also going to ruin the work. The key to getting that nice straight cut is patience. It often starts with abrading a line in the place you want to cut. Sometimes you need to drill and use a wedge. Then you place your chisel on the spot and tap it with the hammer. The vibration of chisel travels into the stone weakens the spot until a crack forms.

This is also how to change a difficult situation. Or deal with a difficult personality. If your goal is to destroy a relationship then hammer away like Thor and vanquish the enemy. But keep in mind that an enemy is what you will produce. But, if that goal is to shape a relationship from raw stone then the small light taps over a long time is how it’s best done.

It’s also how to set someone free. (Including ourselves sometimes)

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

In today’s microwave world of instant gratification we’ve lost the value of accomplishment. Some of Michelangelo’s works took decades. The investment of time and imparting of life energy is what gives value to an angel shaped hunk of rock. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that don’t be surprised if instant success leaves us with a hollow victory. Accomplishment is born from the struggle. The harder the struggle is then the more satisfying the accomplishment will be. Even Michelangelo struggled. I don’t have a source but I remember one of art teachers talking about Michelangelo’s unfinished works and that how some of were abandoned because a fault formed in the wrong spot. The lesson I learned was that to become a master is to have failures and move forward anyway. If we want success then we walk away from the ruined piece with our tools and our experience and we get to work on a new piece by making those small taps in just the right place. And, we do it again and again until the angel is free.

14 thoughts on “Working With Stone (And hearts of stone too)

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