That’s a proverb from the Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand. I’ve often referred to it over the years.

It seems to mean that the process of finding out who you really are includes a lot of giving up. If you’re a tree and being carved at the same time, well, you can expect it to hurt a bit at times. That means you can expect it to keep on hurting for some time.

Traditional Maori were known for their elaborate facial tattoos. As they lived their experiences the tattoos would be periodically added to to update their stories. Genuine bone chisels, no anaesthetic, genuine pain. Those who met them would know them by reading the stories that had been carved into their faces.

Live the life, become the story which will later be told. Your reward for doing your best will be a passage through pain, but by then it may not be the kind of pain you initially expected.

Make your right choice. ‘Trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity. For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the unseen… ‘ (Gibran, The Prophet).

It occurrd to me that the kind of suffering needed to get to heaven was my responsibility.

The rats which had come out to hear my speech applauded before running off as usual.


Every so often a rat popped out and ran past. I was learning slowly to say ‘Ah yes. Another of those rats.’ Then some of them would even smile gently at having been recognized before running away.

Something tall was poking its head above the line of boxes. I had enough space so I pulled a few away without sorting them and there it was.

A gold statue equivalent.

Tall and ugly, like a partly finished art project someone had given up on but didn’t have the heart to give away.

A lot of the junk in the room was stuff that looked as if it could be useful, depending on who you were. So normally I would have kept it just in case – not knowing of course whether I would be the one who ended up using it, but more, you know, in case someone else might want it, at least it wouldn’t be wasted, sort of.

But the gold statue equivalent was different in that it clearly wasn’t any use. It was more like an art project than something useful, just to be looked at, to be something in itself rather than be used for any other purpose.

You understand, don’t you, that it was nothing to do with me. Never seen it before in my life. Would I ever take time on something so useless ? No way !

It didn’t even look all that great.

But what it was, was good at standing.

I thought of Ozymandias, King of Kings. “Look on my works, ye mighty – and despair !!!! Mighty as you are, you’ll never get anywhere near what I’ve achieved.”

But Ozymandias had fallen, leaving only his legs behind. Was it his arrogant words that had brought him down ?

Was there a message on the base of the gold statue equivalent ?

I switched on my rechargeable torch, aimed it and read :

“Whoso pulleth their true self out of this block of plasma for all to see shall be rightwise ruler of all the lands within.”

As I read it again, ethereal background music seemed to play.


However long ago, someone had thrown a dart from somewhere else in the giant room. The dart landed on one of the top boxes in the pile as it was then. Sometime later another box got brought in and dumped on top  – for ages the kindness of the dart – thrower was missed.

I was sitting musing when a large rat suddenly appeared, squeezing between a couple of boxes and runing across the floor I’d cleared. I freaked !!!! Then remembered to breathe.

Fortunately the door was open that day. The rat ran for it and escaped. Never to be seen again.

You wish.

Was it just going to go round the back and reenter? Would I recognize it if it did? Some people address this challenge by collecting pet rats.

I decided to leave the door open in future. My work was having some impact – there was much less space for rats to hang out in and they were jumping ship. Nothing personal – I was just taking away the stuff they were living on, in and behind. I had to expect occasional rat appearances and to remember to breathe each time. It usually only took one good breath to blow them out of there.

So how many boxes should there have been all along in this room? Any at all, or none?

It probably didn’t matter how many as much as how well chosen and sorted they were.



I was in some kind of giant warehouse/factory.

No one ever went through the door I came and went by – it seemed that that one was for me only. Yet as previously noted, I didn’t seem to be the only one in the building or whatever it was. I could hear things going on in the distance but my stacks of boxes got in the way of being able to see anything.

All this time I’d been working in a cubicle of my own making. Wouldn’t it be great to have more people to work with, but then again who would want to do this sort of work?

I wrote “HI !!!!!” on a piece of paper, made it into a dart and threw it. It worked, that is the dart disappeared somewhere over the boxes where I couldn’t see it. So that was that.

Unpacking the third box that morning, I noticed an odd bit of paper, not part of any set. ‘Might as well see if it belongs somewhere’, I thought.

The outside was blank. On the inside was the word HI.

Hmmmmm…           .


I left the TV off. It just didn’t seem to matter so much now.

After a while I found an old copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack (which I had known was in there somewhere though I expected it would take far longer to find)  and decided that what I was best at was persistence. Everywhere I could see examples of starting on something, dropping it, starting something else, dropping that, moving to another task, et cetera and so on. Wasn’t that what persistence was – never exactly giving up?

Long ago I read a meditation by someone wise. It had about fourteen lines (not rhyming or scanning) and began

To us it is given                                                                                                                                         At no stage ever to rest

and later on had stuff about going on , climbing maybe, from life unto life. Thanks to call centre technology there’s always a call waiting – their work is never done, they could work continuously if they chose, without even toilet breaks.

But we were meant to sleep at night, weren’t we? Some people don’t even do that.

And the bit that does astral travel or whatever? Now there’s a part of us that never even stops work. Is that what the wise one was talking about?

Even plant growth isn’t continuous. Plants do a growth spurt, pause to gather strength, then do the next one. What’s that if it isn’t persistence ? They just grow where they’re put (or die if they can’t) and have no choice about it. Does that make them completely subconscious?

But I’m nature’s greatest miracle. With the power and responsibility of choice. I never get to rest from that.

I looked at all the junk I hadn’t sorted yet.

Was it really all mine? And if so, wouldn’t it have taken so many lifetimes to amass all that? And if so, mightn’t I get more than one to get it all sorted out ?

I decided to commemorate where I was at with a poem.

Never desist, always insist.                                                                                                                  Even if dissed, always persist.                                                                                                              Of what the journey may consist                                                                                                        How trickily the road may twist                                                                                                          Or circumstances may resist                                                                                                                Or what gets missed, hidden in mist                                                                                                  Finding these out may make you pissed                                                                                            But simply add them to your list                                                                                                        And feed them to your mill as grist.                                                                                                    However endless my existence                                                                                                            Moments alone can eat the distance.




Now that’s better ! I can hear the creaking of old ideas waiting to be put into action.

The decision was too great to be taken on my own. What should I do ?

Desperately I called out ‘Help ! MASTERMIND !!!!!!!!’

Instantly he was there, in a flash of purple cape and proprietary logo.

‘One moment,’ he said. I’ll just put this ship and my girlfriend to one side and I’ll be right with you.’

A quick brush of his hair and he was ready. ‘Now what’s the trouble?’ he asked.

‘ I have to decide whether to keep tidying or assemble this kitset,’ I explained.

‘Sit down while I tell you my story,’ he suggested. So I did.

‘For what you’re trying to do you need a Plan Of Action, Real Keenness and Never Take No For An Answer. I don’t envy your task but I know how you feel. In the old days I was a man of action – all I had to do was fly around looking for a train to catch or a ship to pick up. Anything but tidy my own junkroom. But lately I’ve become more reflective – I think it’s this new costume.’

‘So what do you suggest?’

‘Keep the mane thing the mane thing,’ he said, rechecking his hair in a pocket mirror. ‘Plan your time, so much for shifting boxes, some left over for assembling that kitset. It might turn out to be a vacuum cleaner or something like that. And if someone comes and tells you what a mess you’re making or your kitset’s a waste of time, tell them you love them so much for wanting to be so kind to you. That should get rid of them.’

In a flash of decisive purple, he was gone.


The hare was always boasting about being the fastest runner around, especially when it came to running uphill. The other animals grew tired of this and finally persuaded the tortoise to challenge the hare to a running race.

This was not because they believed the tortoise could win the race by running faster than the hare, as the tortoise’s running speed had been tested and found to be the same as its crawling speed.

The tortoise was chosen for three reasons .

The hare could not easily refuse to race without lacking all future credibility.

There was the best chance that the hare would underestimate the tortoise’s capability.

If the hare did win, the tortoise had the thickest skin and would be the best at withstanding criticism and ridicule.

Without really thinking about it, the hare accepted.

The day of the race arrived and all the animals gathered at the starting point, which happened to be at the top of a steep cliff. The tortoise said nothing.

‘Where’s the course?’ asked the hare.

The other animals pointed down over the cliff to where a river happened to be meandering past at the bottom. ‘First to reach the river wins,’ they explained.

The hare began to realize what kind of game was being played.

Next moment the animals shouted : ‘Take your marks ; get set ; GO !!!’

Then they quickly pushed the tortoise off the cliff edge before it could reconsider.

The tortoise took off at a tremendous speed, bouncing off rocks and vegetation from which its hard shell protected it well along with contributing momentum.

The hare paused for a moment before dashing off along the clifftop looking for an easier downhill run. The race rules had failed to specify the precise route to take.

The tortoise and the hare reached the river at exactly the same time, although not the same part of the river. They didn’t know which of them had won – nor did any of the other animals.

MORAL #1 : Leveling the playing field might mean something else.

MORAL #2 :  A happy ending is usually definite and serves someone right. Let’s see if we can manage without needing that 🙂