Of what can we be proud?

After all these thoughts on ego, I ask myself: Of what can a man be proud? In answer, an analogy comes to mind:

Consider I find a piece of metal, say copper, lying on the ground. This was not uncommon several millenia ago.

I take this simple lump of metal, and start pounding it into a flat sheet. Then I take sand and scrape the surface flat; then silt and other materials, working it down to a dull gleam. After that, I buff it with coarse animal hides, using to finer and finer materials until I can polish it with leather and ash.

In the end, I have a crude mirror, in which others can look and see shapes that were not visible before.

Now, as the one who did the work, I can take pride in: my choice to work the metal, my time spent doing it, my craft in producing a shine from crude metal. However, I take no credit for what other people now see in the mirror – the shapes, colors, or play of lights. I may have perfected a certain form, but it’s the agency of other forces that make it useful as a mirror.

I think about this in terms of writing poetry, because although I take pride in the work of writing poetry, I cannot take credit for the feelings of beauty the poem inspires. You might call poetry a kind of “beauty catcher”, where I am the fisher that casts his line, but what is caught comes from another realm entirely.