He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
— Louis Nizer, 1948 (often misattributed to St. Francis of Assisi)
The longer title here is “Iron Hand and Carbon Heart: A Steeled Resolve”
Steel is made of iron and carbon (and small amounts of other elements). Adding chromium-oxide gets you stainless steel.
The Iron Age began around 1200 B.C. in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and steel came along roughly eight hundred years later in China. Iron is convertible to steel and becomes strong because of its excess of ductility –meaning it has properties which allow it to be stretched into wire. In other words, if you take a cylinder of iron and pull from either end, it will stretch a bit before it breaks. You can add carbon without losing structural integrity, and it makes the entire thing harder.
So what do I mean by the phrase “iron hand and carbon heart”? First of all, I’m not talking about the old cliche ruling with an iron fist. The work we do has to have a certain strength. The control we exert via our hands includes a measure of strength, but also skill, dexterity, flexibility and malleability. When we close our hand up into a fist, we become unreceptive to other influences. We think we’re getting harder, but really we’re getting weaker. More breakable. Cooler heads will prevail: the goal in keeping our heads cool is that we must remember that our hands really do have an excess of ductility. Something really could be added to what we do. Effort alone won’t get us where we hope to go, and we have to keep our hand open and extended to take hold of it.
Who would think you could add something as organic as carbon to make iron harder? It must have been discovered by accident! But this is our heart. This is the human component. Empathy and passion, things of the heart, things of carbon, must be added to our strength, skill, dexterity, etc., if we are to work as artists at whatever we do. This is no accident, but it’s also no easy task.
In the Void we experience this pain as though we were being stretched into a wire. Twisted, spun out, narrowed. What’s happening in our hearts here is that we’re finding out what we’re really made of. I read a secular coach’s blog once in which he asked the question regarding finding purpose in life: “What sort of sh*t sandwich are you willing to eat?” In the Void, you’re finding that out. You’re finding out just how far you can stretch, and you’re also mixing in your carbon. The minute you can’t take it anymore, you quit, you break. But if you can take it, and mix the carbon of your heart in with the skills you’ve learned, then you’re right on top of this fusion. The iron of your hand and the carbon of your heart. They come together in the Void to leave you with a steeled resolve. When you emerge from the void, you’re (mostly) impervious to the ill effects of success. Instant success means you didn’t get the fusion, you didn’t get steel. People who have instant success don’t have an appreciation for it, and they don’t maintain their stainless resolve to continue doing excellent work the way someone who has a steeled resolve will do. They know that the success isn’t about them, it’s about what happened in the Void. It’s about a fusion they fought for.
Paper beats rock, and steel beats iron.