Forever is a diamondBy Simeon Dumdum Jr.
Cebu Daily News
When I woke up this morning and gazed beyond the balcony, something caught my eye. Across from us, next to the road and an idle lot, on space long ruled by weeds and wild papaya, posts stood, upwards of twenty in my count. Something was being built, a fact confirmed by a small bunkhouse on the side, near which I noticed a group of men going about the morning—washing, readying breakfast, or just sitting idly by, letting the night’s cobwebs dissipate with the haze.
The neighborhood being a residential area, I knew that a house would rise there, its walls marked with posts around the widening groundwork. Masons and carpenters, I said of the men under my breath.
The sight of them made me think. What if I were one of them, earning my keep through manual labor? I could not imagine this, because, having settled into a sedentary lifestyle, I had become soft and loose, unfit for such as carpentry. And much as I wished that I had a way with hammers, saws, chisels and planes, I just did not have the aptitude—the only accomplishment I could ever claim in this regard was a wooden wall vase, a project to comply with school requirements and which was so poorly put together that I could have failed in the subject, Industrial Arts, but for the fact that the teacher and my father were chessmates.
Carpentry was Jesus’ trade. This was how he was known in Nazareth, his hometown—as a carpenter. At one time when he came home, the people were wondering why he was teaching in the synagogue, and why his words carried much wisdom and his hands brought on the marvellous. In his Gospel, Mark quotes them—“Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?” (They were not necessarily Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Aramaic had no specific word for cousins and used the term for siblings to apply to cousins as well.)
Then, as now, carpenters were looked down upon as in general laborers have been. And because of this, despite the good sense in his pronouncements and his amazing works, the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus.
I forgot about the workers until afterwards, when the wife and I were on the road, and she mentioned about whistling. She suggested that we teach our three-year-old grandson how to whistle. I asked her if she still knew how to do it, and she obliged by giving a little demonstration, using the solfeggio. She did well except for the highest note, on which I too failed when my turn came to make a similar attempt.
And then I remembered a cousin, a young farmer. I was a still a boy, and we were visiting relatives in the heartland, and, after a hearty lunch of native chicken stew and corn grilled on the cob, were preparing to leave for town. The sun was setting. Against it, my cousin, who was far off straddling a carabao, was whistling a Visayan love song. His whistle had such purity that it rode on the air and travelled the distance to reach us (and now still travels, even after my cousin’s death, to get to me across time).
I am sure that among the laborers in the construction site there are two or three who, if they cannot whistle as exquisitely as my cousin, excel in some ability other than installing tiles or sawing wood. In fact, though deprived of the opportunities that God in His grace has given me, they are probably my equal, if not my superior, in the art of living, of being human. It may be that they are less choleric and have more kindness and compassion, and without doubt circumstances have shown them to be more competent in enduring life’s adversities.
At any rate, our fate will be the same—if our faith is the same. In the end, we will shine like the sun, all of us. Gerard Manley Hopkins describes this for himself in his poem about the Resurrection:
I am all at once what Christ is,
since he was what I am and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch,
matchwood, immortal diamond
Is immortal diamond.
More from this Column:
- The persistence of memory
- Round as tomatoes
- The name of the rose
- The Third man
- How to live a long life