A life's work

Sitting on a side-table we have a beautifully carved ivory ball. It was probably created in China. When? I have no idea. It is, more precisely, a series of five hollow balls, one inside the other, each intricately carved into a lattice pattern. Each inner ball would have had to have been shaped and carved through the aligned holes of the outer ones - work of immense patience and skill. It is the sort of creation that would only possible when life and skilled labour were cheap.

It fell onto the floor yesterday and two of the inner balls were broken. The anger I felt had nothing to do with any monetary value. It was a fury that the careful, painstaking work of maybe years of a man's life, probably a substantial portion of his adult existence, was lost in a split second. I imagined him squinting on his workbench in a  hut in China, carefully filing out each concentric ball so that his commissioner - a mandarin perhaps - could hold it out as conversation piece to friend who would marvel at its complexity for a few seconds  before returning it to its shelf.

Such craftsmanship is wonderful... and appalling... in the same thought.

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