Both the Marble and the Sculptor

A few weeks ago, I ran into this beautiful quote by Alexis Carrel, which captures the difficulty of changing oneself both perfectly and poetically. Ever since then, this quote has stayed with me, which is why I though I’d make a post about it.

Change is difficult, we all know that. As an explanation for this difficulty, people often offer an explanation that goes along the lines of ” because we’re creatures of habit”. Indeed, we are, but this doesn’t come anywhere near explaining the first point. Yes, it’s clear that we like things that are habitual, but what is the reason we’re such loving fans of it?

In an attempt to answer that question, we might be told that it’s because habits are things that work for us. We’ve tried it once (or a few times), we figured out that they function well, and so we stuck with them. Well, yes, this is true in some cases, but not in all. Many times, people stick with the same things despite the fact that they are harmful. In other cases, the habit might not be harmful necessarily, but it might simply not be the best out of all the possible options. For example, one might take the same road home, despite the fact that there are other ones that are faster (this is one thing I know I’m guilty of 🙂 ).

The best answer comes from the quote I mentioned in the beginning. Change in it of itself is difficult. Think about redecorating your apartment. It’s a lot of work, which can tire someone quite readily. But when you’re trying to change yourself, you’re not only the one executing the change, but also the object that’s being changed. In other words, you are making the change, while you are being changed yourself. it’s double the work, isn’t it?

Below I’ve linked a video in which it is argued that change is exhausting, which makes sense, in light of the above conclusion. In essence, trying to change something requires a lot of effort, which then leaves you drained, and incapable of performing other tasks as well as you could. As such, it makes sense why we’d prefer to stick to something that requires less effort on our part, leaving us capable of working on other undertakings.

The quote speaks of suffering, which makes sense. Not inescapably physical suffering, though this might occur as well, because mental torment might also be experienced. One might argue that the mental torment is more powerful than the physical one, because it can leave scars that hardly, if ever, heal.

So, what should we do? Should we completely silence the sculptor within us, so as not to allow the marble we’re made out of to feel pain? Or should we let the sculptor do its job, and endure the suffering of the marble?

The answer is that it depends. If you’ve been stuck for a while with habits that are harmful to you, then let your inner sculptor do its job. Remember that it’s only hard in the beginning, because after a while, the new routine will become a habit, and it will be easier for you to do it.

If you’ve got something that works great, then there’s no need to tire yourself out trying to change it. Rather, look for whatever else there is in you that doesn’t work that well, and put your energy into that.



Holding On, by Elizabeth Stokkebye

Change, by Yarinmansour

Learning to change it, by Zoeprose

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