Go to home page

04 Sep 2005: Canary Wharf

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We are going to Brighton later this month. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Broken Doll

He used to be a builder. People would come to see him build. He would build things with his hands, a compulsion borne of passion. People saw what he had built and asked him to build for them, thus his passion became his livelihood. He would be heartened by their smiles as they received what he had built for them. Building was joy, his life was building and so his life was joy.

The elders had heard of the shapes he had wrought with his hands and so asked him to build for them a very special chair. They told him it should be the finest chair that could be built as it would seat the finest of individuals. He devoted himself immediately to this task and spent many days and nights on its construction.

It was, indeed, the finest thing he had ever built. When completed, he took it to the elders. The elders guided him to the private chamber where they debated on matters that affected the people. In this chamber, there was a chair for each elder. Quite clearly, however, there was a vacancy, another space awaiting a chair. He placed the chair he had built for the elders in this space.

And then one elder said, "Now sit with us on the chair you have built. Your passion will be joined with our wisdom. From this day, the elders are now one more."

He was flattered by their offer. Modesty demanded that he initially decline, but they insisted that the chair he had made was suitable for no other. So he sat with the elders and entered their number.

As his hands had become those of an elder, his hands were only permitted to build if all of the elders agreed. The new way of things was this: the people would now make a request to the elders for something to be built and the elders would discuss what needed to be done. The merits of every request would be considered carefully and with great deliberation.

The sagely wisdom of the elders was, of course, beyond compare. Every decision was made with the best of intentions and for the good of the people. If a consensus was reached, the elder builder would build according to the directions the elders had agreed to. He would toil late into each night, building according to the agreed design. He worked hard for the betterment of all.

After four years as the elder builder, he discovered that he had lost his talent. Although exhausted, he ached to produce one small piece of work that he could call his own. Secretly, he tried to build something but he found that his hands would seize up, paralyzed with indecision. Shapes would no longer emerge from his tools instinctively. Every movement his hands made seemed predetermined. They needed instruction and direction from the elders before they would act.

He realised a new truth. His hands could no longer create. The passion, the joy; gone, replaced. And for four days, he chose to remain in his dwelling with tears his only company.

The elders came to his abode and asked him outright what was wrong. He replied that his hands no longer danced for him. They said this was truth to be accepted; an elder's talent becomes the possession of the elders. All elders should know this and give freely of themselves to the people.

But he knew he could not return to that chair, the finest thing he had ever built, and ignore the lost history it painfully represented. Leaving the elders, however, was a sin. It meant that he would be deserting his people and his right to live amongst them would be forfeit. The people would not understand what his hands meant to him.

The world was without fair choices, but he made a choice, the only choice that made sense. He went into exile, a member of the people no more.

He tried to forget his past. But he would dream each night of building beauty and shape previously unseen; he would dream of his hands dancing in the rhythms of the carpenter. His heart would beat and he would feel whole again. When he awoke, he called them nightmares, seeing the dreams as taunting demons, holding him back from finding a new path. He could no longer build and it should be forgotten.

And then in the fourth year of exile, he heard a cry one morning. He rushed towards the direction of the noise and met the first person he had seen in four years. A small girl had been passing by and fallen over a tree root concealed in the undergrowth. The girl was unhurt, but she was sobbing over the fate of her doll which had not survived the fall. She had obviously spent every waking minute in its companionship and now, after years of unintended punishment, the doll had surrendered to time.

The girl's tears moved him and he reached over instinctively to the broken doll and started to put it back together. He did not even hesitate as he reassembled its shattered form and he noticed his hands needed little encouragement as they moved.

The girl looked up at him and stopped crying, seeing the doll whole once again. But now it was he who was weeping, weeping with joy. After all these years, his hands were still able to build and had never forgotten their passion. It was he himself who had held them back, save during his dreams where they had found a temporary freedom.

He knew that he would never again forget that he was a builder. He wanted to say thank you to the child, he wanted to express his gratitude for the gift of revelation she had brought him. Instead, he told her something she would understand.

"You see," he said to her through his own tears, "any doll which is broken can be fixed." He handed her the doll and she took it, smiling.