Over the Christmas break I was able to finish making an ashtray I started a while ago. It actually started as a guitar when I was a junior at UF. Myself and Steve, my roommate, were planning on making a guitar. I had access to the College of Art’s wood shop, so we had all sorts of cool tools at our disposal. Then we found out that making a guitar is really hard. And it takes a lot of time. So that ended up on the back burner for a bunch of years, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the fine pieces of wood that we bought in anticipation of our guitar masterpiece. One of those pieces that I’ve been carting around was a mahogany heel block, like the one in the pic. It’s basically a block of wood that you would finish and attach where the neck joins the body. It was a beautiful piece of wood, so I had to use it to do something. Not being a master wood worker and only having access to a Dremel tool, I chose something simple and functional: a cigar ashtray.
I routed out the tray (which took forever with a Dremel) and made a few spots to hold some stogies, sanded the beast and sealed it. The finished product doesn’t look too bad.
There was one thing that kept hitting me, though. I was always having to struggle with the material to get it to do what I wanted to do. This is a similar idea found in a book edited by Jeremy Begbie, Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts. The chapter on the use of sculpture is written by Lynn Aldrich, a sculptor living in L.A. (here’s some of her work). My material was just a block of wood and it was using every ounce of inertia to stay that block of wood. I feel like the process really spoke to me about the universal idea of struggle or frustration. I had an end in sight and it took hours of struggle to see that end. This is not what life was meant to be. Life was never meant to be a series of struggles where in the end everyone dies anyway. But I have become so accustomed to struggle and frustration that I don’t often give it a second thought.
…cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Maybe we should all get more frustrated or annoyed at the curse of the fall. We probably just accept it more often than not, and that might be a simple coping mechanism so that we don’t all end up in despair. But despair can be a good thing at times. It points to the great divide of where we are and where we want to be. A despairing person is definitely not alright with the way things are.
But we aren’t just left with despair, we do have a hope, a light that shines ever so faintly at the end of our dark tunnel. This is faith- believing that light does exist beyond our current circumstance.
Can a person be in despair and hope at the same time? I guess that’s kind of the Christian walk, figuring out how to live in both of those worlds.