Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I pinched this one from Grandmere Mimi's blog the other day (they are from her post about a visit to Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian) because I loved the story:

The Apprentice Pillar

The "Apprentice Pillar", or "Prentice Pillar", gets its name from an 18th century legend involving the master mason in charge of the stonework in the chapel and his young apprentice. According to the legend, the master mason did not believe that the apprentice could perform the complicated task of carving the column, without seeing the original which formed the inspiration for the design. The master mason traveled to see the original himself, but upon his return was enraged to find that the upstart apprentice had completed the column anyway. In a fit of jealous anger the mason took up his mallet and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him. As punishment for his crime, the master mason's face was carved into the opposite corner to forever gaze upon his apprentice's pillar.

That story really got me to thinking...

You know, from Cain and Abel onward, the Bible is full of stories of jealousy, and bad outcomes related to it, all the way from "Aleph to Zed" as my friend M. used to say. I could almost make an argument that Moses could have come down the mountain with one commandment--"Do not covet"--and the other nine commandments would have taken care of themselves. We'd worship God more fully if we didn't think we had to compete for his favor. We'd honor our parents better if we weren't jealous of siblings or other relatives. It certainly keeps the murder rate down.

But something I have learned in 20 years of teaching medical students and residents comes through loud and clear on this one--the reason I have been able to STAND teaching medical students and residents for 20 years is because I accepted a long time ago this one fact--if they turn out smarter and do better than me, I've done my job right.

If I had needed to invest time winning the battle of wits all these years, I would have probably knocked one in the head with a stonecarver's mallet too--or in my case, run one of my big specimen-carving knives through them.

Now, if the stone mason in this story had just thought about it, instead of being jealous of this young fellow's talents, he should have been flattered that this guy did "his" style of work as good as him, so his legacy and style and influence would have lived on another generation. I mean, really, it's better than being fecund. Say a person had five kids. There's no guarantee that those five kids are even going into your line of work. But get five apprentices, and there will more than likely be five stone masons out there who learned from you. Those five stone masons will train apprentices, and on and on it goes. Sure, a little less of "you" lives in each successive generation, but those "molecules" are still there.

In my case, all those medical students and residents I've taught or trained go into many different fields--not just pathology--and it widens my influence. When I look at my Facebook page, I have been amazed at how many of them seem to remain on my friend list after graduation. When I get a phone call or e-mail from a former student or resident asking "my advice"--whether it's pathology or life--I am humbled. I really don't have anything to teach those people any more. They are all grown up and in practice and they are stand-alone doctors in their own right. But for some reason, that bond of the teacher and the student are still there.

If I were jealous about this stuff, none of it would have happened.

I was once on the short end of jealousy in a teacher-student relationship. I had a situation once, where, I believe, this person targeted me as a person with talent--one who "got it"--one who understood his way of seeing it in a way most students didn't. But two things happened.

The first was, he was right about those gifts and talents--and I learned in leaps and bounds and it became so apparent to him, I believe, that this became threatening to him. He was in a period in his life where his talents in this realm were, well, for lack of a better term...he was becoming impotent. What would take him several days to do, and stress over, and obsess over, I was doing like rolling off a log, and begging for more. He was turning on the tap of his imagination and getting a trickle, and in the distance he heard the rushing torrent of my faucet that couldn't be shut off.

The other was that I could not help that I was a "challenging" sort of personality. It's no secret, I challenge authority. The best teachers in my life use that challenge to get me to channel myself in better directions. But they have to be strong enough people to tell me where to get off, and not be afraid of making me mad. Yes, I get mad--but if I want the learning, I humble up and eat crow pretty quickly. Everything I have learned about humility, frankly, that "sticks," requires that I get shoved on my butt and stare a the dirt for a short bit.

So in the end, he came to resent me--deeply--and blamed me for his failings and his distress. The response of this resentment was to cut me off from the learning experiences, and, as I was taught to go to him for the learning--to not trust others--it had the effect of cutting off a cocaine addict. I became needy and desperate and codependent to get my "fix." Eventually it all blew up, and that was the end. It has never repaired itself.

There are days I would like that to be repaired, but it would have to come "from the top down." I was the lower player in that scenario. Any attempt on my part would simply be another codependent act. I reconciled myself a long time ago that "being happy as I am now" is the only reconciliation I can get in that for now.

As with a lot of parallels in real life, so it goes with the kingdom of God and God's kingdom on earth.

Any given parish has amazing talent living right within it. Even small ones.

What would it be like if an entire parish committed itself to the development of each other's talents, and stopped worrying about "turf" and actually committed ourselves to the notion that the person sitting next to you in the pew might outstrip your ability to contribute to the work of God, and that was just fine?

For that matter, what if one Sunday we all didn't sit in "our" pew? What if we all sat somewhere other than where we normally sit? (I am very guilty of that one.) How would the church look different if we simply sat and participated from a different spot?

What happens to us--how are we changed--if we work from the notion every other person in our parish might outdo us in SOMETHING in the parish--and it's all ok?

Parishes don't usually have such a tangible reminder of the way "jealousy kills" like the Apprentice Pillar, but it does have empty pews that might be the result of coveting and jealousy. How could they be filled with a change in attitude? How much would we change and grow by accepting someone might learn from us in our various tasks in the church and outdo us? What a wonderful miracle that might be...


Thanks - I needed that. The person I am jealous of is the person I think I should be.

I need to give us both a break. Your kick in the pants put me on a new path today

You bring up a great point. How many times does "the sinner that lives within ourselves" becomes jealous of "the saint that lives within ourselves?" How many times do we work at "martyring our inner saint?"

Or worse, we become obsessed with the perfection of wanting to be our own inner saint and always fall short--and know it.

One of the things I keep reminding myself is God has called each of us to something good in the ongoing maintenance of his kingdom--and that's the sinner half of us as well as the saint half. If he had wanted saints and angels for the job, he would have sent 'em himself.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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