This letter was sent to me by an old friend.
May I give you a story, as promised?
The story is told that if you were a young person in medieval France embarking on a spiritual quest, if you were fortunate you might meet up with someone older, perhaps a teacher, who would say this to you: I think I understand what you are seeking. Let me give you the name of someone I know, a cobbler, in Dijon. I think that it might work out well if you were to become his apprentice. If that happens, let me give you one piece of advice. Don’t talk with him about spiritual matters; just let him teach you how to make shoes.
So, time passes, and you find yourself in Dijon, and you seek out the cobbler. Sure enough, as it works out, you become his apprentice.
Years pass, and you learn how to make shoes. Year after year, you measure people’s feet. You watch them walk. You listen as they tell you about their work, their daily activities, their lives, their yearnings. You make their shoes, you modify their shoes, you repair their shoes. Your shoes tell stories. You make wonderful shoes that enrich people’s lives.
More time passes, and one day, the cobbler says to you, You have become a fine cobbler. Your fingers listen to the leather, and your heart listens to the people who will wear your shoes. I am growing old, and soon I will reach the end of my life. I want to leave this shop in your hands.
You begin to protest, but the cobbler goes on.
Now hear me. One day, a young person will come to you, on some kind of spiritual quest. If it works out for this person to become your apprentice, let me give you one piece of advice. Don’t talk with him about spiritual matters. Just teach your apprentice how to make shoes.
Warmly, Herman F.
The Northwest Woodworking Studio