The glint on a raw surface exposes the value beneath. It is not a charm that outshines the content but the slow plod of inherent epistemic stability of virtue. It is not a sudden ideal that is fashioned onto an unsuspecting world but the slow build of hundreds and thousands of tiny concrete actions that define the character as it takes shape. And none of this is for the purpose of grand epistemological vision of the self, the glory of recognition, or the plastered glossy image of the self on some wall or building. It is from the passion and desire of the mind. Much like the Maxwellian demon with its infinite industry and focus separates the fast from the slow and the true from the false, these few that live in their ideal world of passion and desire live for the sake of accomplishing their dreams and separate themselves through their excellence.
I met this fourteen year youth a long time ago. My bicycle needed a repair for a flat tire and having walked it down to the local shop. I came face to face with this person. His face was unwashed and he wore rags for clothes. He seemed to have right lazy eye that lagged the other a bit as he turned to look. And he smelled of tobacco. He took my bicycle and sat on a squared piece of concrete which was to be his “shop.” He immediately went to work prying open the tire and finding the nail within the cavity and using glue and a patch he had it inflated in no time. During the intensity of his work his eyes darted back and forth across the floor where seeing a cigarette butt, he picked it up and inhaled and not being lit, he took it out from in between his lips and stacked it next to his “concrete-block-seat,” adding to his collection.
The bike was repaired and as he was about to hand it over to me, he stopped in mid movement and with his hands on the bicycle walked around it inspecting it. Then he shook his head and held up his index finger for a moment implying, I should wait. I did. After a few more minutes of some clanking wrenches and screw drivers, he stood up again and looked at his project. His eyes seemed to sparkle beneath his dirt covered face. His lips broke into a smile exposing his discolored teeth. He seemed happy with his work. I thanked him and nodded his head. I paid for the repair at the desk and then tendered some money as a tip. He refused with the wave of his hand as he eyed my bicycle, looking for imperfections. As he handed over the bicycle to me, he used the tattered sleeve on his shirt to clean some of the grease that had gotten on the handlebars. He inspected once again and gave the bike one last pat before moving over to receive the next customer who had arrived.
Many years later, I drove by the shop and found that it was no longer there. Next to the empty spot was a huge building for automotive services. I stopped and decided to get an oil change.
With my car on the hydraulic lift, several young men were working in the automotive bays. I saw a man look in from the large picture window. Moments later he was in the bay helping out one of the workers. I was transfixed with his demeanor and his constantly darting eyes. His hands were flying over underneath the car that the worker was helping change the oil. As he came closer to where I was sitting waiting for my car, I noticed he had a lazy right eye that lagged the other when he turned to look. He was him! Him! the little youth, bumming cigarette butts several years ago, he was now an auto-mechanic!
I introduced myself and reminded him about our past encounter. He was amused and courteous and soon went back to his rigor of inspections and perfection. He helped with the oil change and checked brake fluids, brake-pads and all relevant things that were visible and might be out of frame. He now chewed gum constantly. The smell of grease had over taken the smell of tobacco and the gum was a good substitute for innocent indulgence.
Later I found out that the fourteen year old had grown up to become the owner of this large facility. Good on him! I thought. This was a well-deserved success for “The Stuff of Excellence.”