Response to Arthur Lindley

The Parable of the Builder

Graham Holderness

 

     There was a man of the city of Tiberias in Galilee, and he was a builder.

     When he was a child he fashioned many beautiful things from wood and stone, and his teachers said, This boy should be an artist.

     But the boy had no belief in himself as an artist, and must needs earn his bread. So it came about that he was apprenticed to an architect, and became a builder.

     When his time was served, his designs pleased, and he began to build. So he built his first house, and it was built in a new fashion, though following worthy models, and cleverly adapted to all the needs of those who would dwell therein.

     Many admired the house, and it was soon acquired and occupied. But the Pharisees looked and said, Behold: this house is not according to our Law. A building should have antiquity, and beauty. This house is modern, and merely useful. Better it were that it had never been built.

     And the builder was disappointed, but not cast down. For very soon other builders began to work in the same style, and it became accepted. So he built another house, but on a different wise: in an ancient style, following worthy models, but cleverly adapted to all the needs of those who would dwell therein.

     Many admired the house, and it was soon acquired and occupied. But the Pharisees looked and said, Behold: this house is not according to our Law. A building should be modern, and beautiful. This house is antique, and merely useful. Better it were that it had never been built.

     And the builder was sorrowful, and put away his tools. Very soon other builders began to work in the same style, and it became accepted. But he had no wish to build again.

     And it came about that one day he rose from sleep, and saw in his yard a pile of new bricks, ruddy in the early morning sun. And he looked and saw a plot of ground that had been built over many times, until no man claimed it: and it had fallen to waste.

     And he went out and built a tower, made of old and new materials, in a mixture of ancient and modern styles, and with a staircase winding to the top.

     Some admired it, and said, See, it is beautiful. But none could live within it.

     And the Pharisees looked and said, Behold: this tower is not according to our Law. A building should be either ancient, or modern, and above all useful. This tower is neither old nor new: it is merely beautiful. Yea, it is disappointingly banal. Better it were that it had never been built.

     But on the next day at dawn the builder climbed to the top of his tower, and looked around. The world lay shining below him.

     He knew that there were bigger and more beautiful towers. He knew that he was but a small artist, not to be compared to the best. And he knew that there were many architects much greater than he, and that he had only followed in their footsteps.

     But he looked from his tower, over the city to the desert: and across the desert to the mountains beyond.

     And between the mountains he glimpsed, green in the early light, a good land and a large: a fertile valley, and a river running through it.

     And inwardly he rejoiced, and said: I have seen this with my own eyes. I am a builder.

 

 

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Form copyright © 2003 Early Modern Culture.

Content copyright © 2003 Graham Holderness.