Saturday, November 27, 2010

"The Woodcarver" From Chuang Tsu

Parker Palmer, suggests this poem as an allegory for teaching.
Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lai said to the master carver
"What is your secret?"

Khing replied, "I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
on trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

"By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell-stand.

"Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

"If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

"What happened?
My own collected thoughts
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood:
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits."
Simple, elegant... most of the work was on self, then with the self in control and alignment, the work begins. The results are ascribed to the spirits, and the teacher's job is to bring forth that which is unique.

2 comments:

Shop Teacher Bob said...

Your readers might appreciate the carving of Mooney Warther. He illustrates exactly what the carver in the poem did. He saw it in the wood and brought it to life. The museum/workshop of his is in Ohio. If you haven't been there, I strongly recommend it. The man was a genius. Info can be found at: http://www.warthers.com/carving.htm

Anonymous said...

What a great way to describe the ideal of what woodworkers do. Thank you for posting this.

Mario