the wisdom of the sands - antoine de saint-exupéry

I fell to musing on the savor of the things men make. Thus those in a certain camp made pottery which was good to look at; and those of another camp, pottery that was ugly. And it became clear to me that no laws can be laid down for the embellishing of pottery. Neither monies spent on apprenticeship, nor awards and competitions, would avail. Indeed I even observed that craftsmen who worked for the sake of an ambition other than the excellence of their workmanship, even though they toiled night and day, never sparing themselves, ended by producing vulgar, pretentious, over-complicated work. For those sleepless nights of theirs were put to the service of their venality, their vanity or a taste for luxury - to the service of themselves, in other words - and they no longer bartered themselves, under God's guidance, for a work of art which thus became a source of sacrifice and an intimation of His presence; a work wherein their sighs and wrinkled brows and heavy eyelids and hands that trembled after daylong molding of the clay could merge into the satisfaction of a task well done, the aftermath of fervor. For I know but one act which is fertile, and that is prayer; and I know also that every act is a prayer if it be a free gift of oneself in order to become. Then you are like the bird that builds its nest, and the nest is warm; the bee that makes its honey, and the honey is sweet; the man who shapes his urn for love of the urn and behind that love is prayer. What belief can you have in a poem written for sale? If a poem be an article of commerce, it ceases to be a poem. And if your urn be an article of competition it ceases to be an urn and a likeness of God; rather, it is in the likeness of your vanity or your vulgar appetites.

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