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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


November 29th, 2020


A little girl watched in a trance, lulled by the rhythm and click of Lucilius’s chisel and hammer.  Slowly stone crumbled away from the chisel’s edge as it bumped along, pulling a new surface, new planes to catch the light for new form.  Lucilius was roughing out a bust on commission in his work yard, and the little girl had halted her meander to watch.  


She slowly entered his work yard and took steps nearer to get a better look.


“How do you know when to stop?”

His working reverie broken, Lucilius noticed the little girl for the first time.


“That’s a good question,” Lucilius admitted, looking back at his sculpture, a bit surprised he’d never heard the matter phrased so clearly.  “It certainly is a bit of an art to figure out when you’ve arrived when you’re headed for a place no one has ever been.”



The little girl took a few steps closer to look at an eye in the sculpture that was far closer to completion than the rest.  It looked as though there were someone buried in the stone, peering out.  She held the gaze of the statue - an unwinnable contest that she quickly abandoned to look at Lucilius again.  


“So how do you know?”



Lucilius took a deep breath, wiping his forehead with a forearm.


Well, the farther I go, the less progress I make.  In fact, the farther I go, the less progress is possible.”


“What do you mean?”

“In the beginning,” Lucilius said, switching out his chisel for a larger one and raising it to a rough part of the stone, “I take off big chunks.”  


He swung the hammer and chipped off a hunk that fell heavy to the ground. 


“But as I get closer to where I think the surface might be, I have to go slower, and take off less.  But also, the further I go the better idea I have of where I’m going,”  he paused.  “Here, let’s have you try it.”


He handed the chisel and hammer to the girl and they were far too heavy.  Lucilius wrapped his hands over hers and lifted them to the stone and gently tapped them to chip the stone.  The girl was  mesmerized  by the work. 


When they finished the girl shook her hands, trying to shake out the little pain from the reverberating metal.


“So you don’t know when to stop?”


“I know when I get there.  I just don’t know ahead of time.”


The girl looked a little confused.  Lucilius smiled and stared off into the bright sky a moment before he hunkered down to talk to the girl at her own level. 


“It’s a bit like life.  You don’t know where you’re going in life do you?” 


The girl shook her head.


“But you’ll know where you are when you get there, right?”


A smile slowly grew on the girl’s face.


“Maybe,” she said.


Lucilius smiled back.  “Life is a bit like carving stone.  You get a better sense of where you’re going as you go."

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 959: A Lucilius Parable: One Step at a Time

Tinkered Thinking

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