Once upon a time there was a painter and a sculptor, each the best and most talented among his brethren. Their fame spread far and wide throughout the land, so far it seems, that even Mother Nature had heard of them and was interested. It takes some doing, I can tell you, to peak her interest for there is nothing new under the Sun.
With their fame, however, came an odd feud between the people who revered them. Each side felt that the artist they supported was the superior artist and the other was second-rate. This might not have mattered so much, but the problem was that each “side” wanted the other “side” to capitulate, to admit that the artist of the other side was superior. Each side sneered at the other. It went from sneering to mocking to yelling to throwing stones and even worse . . . until a great deal of noise was upsetting an otherwise beautiful world.
|The uncovering . . .|
I might as well tell you here and now that Mother Nature did not believe one artist was better than the other. She simply recognized their very different talents and hoped that she could bring that recognition to the people by holding the contest. After all, people often need help to see what is right in front of their eyes.
Well, the day of the contest came, and people came from far and wide to see what the artists might do. Each person held in his heart the idea that his artist would finally be recognized as superior and the other would have to bend his knee. Each person was filled with false pride and condemnation. Each person relished the idea of being “right,” not because “right” was best but because “wrong” was simply out of the question. With “wrong” comes condescension, and with condescension comes condemnation. It is a fatal human flaw.
The trumpets sounded loudly to announce the beginning of the contest, and as always, Mother Nature had to make a grand entrance. (You must know that this is her habit as she is anything but dull.) With a great clap of thunder, the Earth shook violently, and then a blinding flash of light was followed by a cloud of deep grey smoke. Everyone fell to the ground trembling in fear. The smoke quickly cleared, though, and Mother Nature stood in their midst, wearing her gown of ever-changing color and scenes. As she moved, she seemed to appear and disappear depending upon whether the scene in her gown matched the surrounding area.
So she sat upon a great golden throne, which everyone swore that only moments earlier had not been there. The trumpets sounded again, and the people were told to sit and watch the contest. Of course, two groups formed, each filled with the members that supported their own artist—either the painter or the sculptor. It was all very black and white with no in between, and this caused a heavy sigh to come involuntarily from the Lady on the Throne.
Not one to wait around for small talk, Mother Nature stood quickly and clapped her hands three times. At once, a large canvas appeared in the clearing, which was surrounded by hundreds (perhaps thousands!) of vials of paint and many brushes and spatulas for the painter to use. As if on cue, he appeared to a thunderous applause from his followers. He was a flamboyant young man dressed in fine silks with a cap and a feather on his head. He bowed low to the ground before Mother Nature, who rolled her eyes and yawned at his conceit and groveling. She said not a word—not one—but merely pointed to the canvas with a long and bony index finger.
The painter went at once to the canvas, drawn by the vast array of beautiful paints. He had planned on making a vivacious show, but he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the paints before him. Without further comment, he set straight to work. He was a strong and vigorous young man, and he moved quickly between the vials of paints, mixing this perfect color and that, splashing them on to the canvas with a look of true rapture in his eyes. It was evident that even though he was a flamboyant and overly showy young man, his art was sincere and humbling and true.
A hush came over the crowd on both sides as they watched him paint the canvas. Future painters watched him with the utmost admiration, holding deeply in their feverish hearts the desire to be just like him. As he worked, the most beautiful woman ever seen appeared magically before the eyes of the beholders. She was so delicate and so pure and so perfect, that every man there desired her immensely and every woman both loved and hated her most jealously, indeed. Even Mother Nature was taken aback (and perhaps a little annoyed) by her stunning beauty and the talent of the man who had painted her.
When the painter finished, he stepped back and sat quietly on the ground. He had planned earlier to make a great and raucous fuss upon his completion, but in the end, he sat humbly in front of the canvas with love shining in his eyes. In that moment, he could not have known how beautiful he himself was.
“You have done well!” Mother Natured boomed, surreptitiously wiping a tear from her eye. This contest had already become much more than she had anticipated, and that made her uncomfortable because things rarely ever happened without her anticipating them. But even the maker of this world has to follow the Law.
Then she abruptly stood and clapped her hands three times yet again. At once, a large piece of marble appeared in the clearing, which was surrounded by dozens and dozens of hammers, mallets, and chisels of all shapes and sizes. Some were pointy and sharp; others were dull and raspy. Anything the sculptor could need was there.
As if on cue, he appeared to a thunderous applause from his followers. He was a very old man, bent and crooked and crippled. Unlike his flamboyant and almost floating counterpart, he was slow and quiet and dressed in dirty and torn clothes. He nodded briefly and absentmindedly toward Mother Nature, who narrowed and fixed her eyes on what seemed to be almost impertinence to her. She said not a word—not one—but merely pointed to the marble slab with a long and bony index finger.
The sculptor limped quietly to the marble, drawn by the beautiful tools at his disposal. He had planned on using his own old chisel, thinking it the best tool ever, but when he saw the fine tools before him, he was overwhelmed with the thought of what he might create. Without further comment, he set straight to work. He was an old man, old and tired, and he moved slowly around the marble as he hammered and chiseled this way and that. He had never used such fine tools before, and he was surprised and humbled by their exactness, having never before thought of the workmanship that might go into the creation of his tools of trade. This gave him a humble appreciation, even a reverence, for the quiet workers who had helped him in his art all these years without him ever having known.
A hush came over the crowd on both sides as they watched him split and chisel and shave the marble. Future sculptors watched him with the utmost admiration, holding deeply in their feverish hearts the desire to be just like him. As he worked, the most beautiful man ever seen began to suddenly appear out of the marble. He was in a reclining position, sleeping peacefully. His features were bold and strong and warrior-like, and every woman there desired him immensely and every man grudgingly acknowledged his superior alpha form. Even Mother Nature was taken aback (perhaps a little feverishly) by his beauty and strength and the talent of the man who had sculpted him.
When the sculptor finished, he jumped back quickly in a movement that startled even himself, and he let out a little yelp. He had planned earlier to simply walk away upon his completion, but in the end, he grinned broadly at the beautiful marble youth before him, enjoying his own talent in a way he had never done before. In that moment, he could not have known how much more human he had become to the spectators.
“Well done, old man, well done!” Mother Natured boomed, secretly feeling her own heart aflutter by the beautiful marble man. This contest had become so much more than she had planned. How was she to choose between these two artists? How was she to say which one was best and which one was second-rate? For surely, they were both masters.
She decided, as she always decides, that Truth is best. And this is what she said:
“Painter, you have reached into the secret garden of your heart and mind. Even more than that, you have reached into the secret gardens of the hearts and minds of everyone here. You have found what is best in beauty and grace, and somehow you have managed to convey that on your canvas. You have been able to combine the secret desires and longings of every person here and put them magically on your canvas, and because of this, we are all made better and humbler.”
The followers of the painter cheered wildly, and even some of the followers of the sculptor cheered as well, having realized the gift of beauty and color that had been given to them.
“Sculptor, you have uncovered what is hidden in every person’s heart and soul. Even more than that, you have let them know that grace and beauty are always within and can be revealed at any time, should one be brave enough to mercilessly use the hammer and chisel. What appeared to be nothing at all is now revealed to be everything, and because of this, you have sparked the courage and bravery of us all to uncover our hidden gifts.”
The followers of the sculptor cheered wildly, and even some of the followers of the painter cheered as well, having been given the gift of the knowledge of uncovering.
When the cheers subsided, the crowd grew quiet. All eyes turned expectantly to Mother Nature, who was now on the spot to make a choice. But before she could make a pronouncement, noises were heard in the clearing by the canvas and the marble. There a group of children were playing with the paints and sculpting tools. Some were merrily throwing the paints and tools around into a terrible mess, but others were earnestly trying to paint and sculpt. Yet all of them—each and every one—was smiling and laughing. Art and beauty, after all, will not be denied.
Several people from both sides then walked away together, having formed a third group. These people would go on in the future to become the wise men and women throughout the ages of man who would try to guide humankind in truth and fairness. The other people who were still left on one side or another walked away in their own directions, marveling at the talent of their artist, whom they all agreed was clearly the best. Painter or sculptor, it did not matter to these people. What mattered was being right.
In the end, Mother Nature was left all alone with the painter and the sculptor. To each she gave an unlimited supply of their respective tools of trade, and both of them thanked her profusely. They left together, the old sculptor leaning heavily on the arm of the young painter, who willingly and humbly supported the old man.
And now all that was left was Mother Nature, the painting, and the sculpture. She took two bits of cloth from her ever-changing dress and draped one across each piece of art, and immediately each one began to move and shift, appear and disappear. She left the art to flow into the forest, and I am told if one has a discerning eye, one can still see the beauty here and there. In the end, though, there is nothing new under the Sun. Things are merely revealed when we are ready to see them.