Tools & Theosis: Sharpening
"While you were chopping wood with a dull axe, I was sharpening mine."
There's an old story I love, a story of two woodcutters.
One morning, they decided to test each other as to who could chop more wood. They got to chopping as fast as possible. This went for an hour before the first cutter stopped, and the second one kept cutting, emboldened by thinking that the first was exhausted. Fifteen minutes pass and the first cutter resumed working - only to stop an hour later. This goes on until the end of the day - and the second cutter was sure he had won. He had worked nonstop, after all!
But, the first cutter - who had paused every hour - won handily. "How is this possible?" The first asked.
"Well, it's simple. While you were chopping wood with a dull axe, I was sharpening mine."
So it is in our lives - it's easy to get hung up on plowing through our day, when in reality, stepping back and spending a little bit of time not directly on the task, but sharpening our axe in preparation for the work ahead of us.
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As a little exercise, go take a knife and rub it straight on a rock for a while to make sure it’s good and dull. Try to cut a piece of fruit. Note how not only is this difficult, but with a delicate thing like fruit, you end up smashing it. Then, sharpen the knife. This might take a while, especially if you have the wrong tools (your sharpening tools… need sharpened). But then, slice easily through the fruit. How much effort is alleviated! How much better the result! How much less waste! Now imagine if you had to cut hundreds of such pieces. It pays to sharpen.
So it is in all parts of our life, especially the spiritual. If we are grinding through our days without taking a step back to recollect, we will continue to grind ourselves down.
In a throwaway culture, it’s difficult to remember that sharpening doesn’t take much effort, and is actually enjoyable.
Take the ten minutes. Pray the liturgy of the hours. Organize your to-do list. Tweak your CAD software hotkeys. Sharpen your axe, chisel, saw, drillbit, or pencil. You owe it to yourself and those you work with to use sharp tools - not just work hard with them.
Sharpening is not lazy. It is still work. It takes effort and attention to do so well. But it is crucial.
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