For close to seven years now, at our gatherings at Mary’s house, I spend several minutes looking at a bust of an African tribesman.
He is carved out of dark hard wood. He has bold features, a broad forehead, sad eyes and a soft mouth. The dark lines around his eyes show a lifetime of experience. I imagine him to have been a hunter or a farmer. Perhaps he was a warrior but this would not have been his choice.
The distinguishing thing about the bust itself is that it has a crack in it. It runs from the top of the African’s head down through his right eye, stops, and then proceeds from the base of his neck to the middle of his sternum, where the carving stops.
The crack is a flaw not intended by the carver. It happened, I assume, as a result of the wood drying too quickly, or because over time the Alberta climate was just too dry for it.
In any case, while there wasn’t an original flaw in the wood, there was a seam, a fault line, that was vulnerable and gave way to certain environmental forces.
Even with this gash in his skull he looks very much alive. To my eye, he has seen more pain than he’d have liked. But there is a serene wisdom etched into the creases of his face and I believe him to be at peace in his place by the window.
The first time I saw him, and now, almost every time I see him, I’m reminded of the song by Leonard Cohen that has in it the line: "There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in."
I believe this is why my African friend is serene and wise. I like to believe that through this â€œfault line,â€ light and therefore truth, has gotten into this wooden skull of his and because of this he has taken on a life that his sculptor had always hoped for.