Wednesday, May 4, 2011

to live and die for

Yesterday, I went to visit an iron-worker in a nearby town. He makes wrought-iron ware like hinges and hooks and railings. Andy's work space is full of fire and noise and creativity... shaping, hammering, imagining. I went ostensibly because I wanted to know what it would cost to create a finish piece for the tile I installed when I had put in the wood stove. Further, ostensibly, I went to ask if he needed any summer help -- I thought perhaps my younger son might work there during the summer.

But all that was just ostensibly.

The real reason I stopped by was to take the joy I take in people who actually create something and stick with their chosen world. Andy told me business was not so hot: "We're at the mercy of the housing market," he said. "That and the fashion trends that come and go." Just at the moment, the housing market sucks. And wrought iron is in a middling phase of popularity. Nevertheless, there was Andy in his thick apron and his protective glasses. He didn't say anything about quitting.

Back in the 1930's there was a famous metal worker whose name I have forgotten. He built the enormous bronze doors on St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, I seem to remember reading. But in the article I read, what really impressed me was that during the Depression, when people were cutting back on what was beautiful and fine, he spent a chunk of his previously-amassed wealth to hire newcomers to his field of expertise. He paid them even though there was little or no paying work available. He did not want the art and craft of his life to die out.

Heart and soul ... there is nothing special about it and yet, when placed next to the merchants who see their wares solely as a means of exalting their capacities, there is something grand and satisfying about it in my mind. It just makes me glad to be alive that there should be such heart and soul, even if I am only fooling myself. Music, art, creativity, a willingness to live and die in this one heart-and-soul arena. Why? Because this (whatever 'this' might be) ... is ... it.

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