Wednesday, 19 May 2010 15:24

Transforming Lead into Gold

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When I mention alchemy to most people, their first response is, "Yes, it would be wonderful to be able to transform lead into gold."  Now, when I read deeper into alchemy, it becomes evident that through the pursuit of early versions of chemistry, the alchemists were learning spiritual truths in their sciences, and scientific truths in their spiritual pursuits.  The materials they worked with all had spiritual as well as physical properties.  Those who have studied alchemy have often come to the conclusion that "turning lead into gold," was a reference to turning the lead of the base, unawakened man into the gold of the awakened, spiritually rich man.

Well, that's nice when it comes to metaphor, but I have a different, more worldly understanding of this phrase, "lead into gold."  In the past few weeks, Onix and I have been hard at work learning the arts of metalworking.  We built a small foundry in our backyard, in which we have been melting down scrap aluminum.  Drink cans, old computer parts, and the like have all gone into the iron cauldron, which sits in the middle of a thick refractory concrete wall, and is heated to at least 1221 degrees F, and then poured into molds shaped in sand and plaster.  We have made a few nice things, but so far it is all experimental.  However, we both have big plans for the capabilities we will have once we are able to transform aluminum cans into beautiful and useful things.

It is a simple economic principle that a material gains value when work is applied to it.  Iron ore is very cheap to come by.  Refining the ore to extract the iron out takes work - human skill and energy is required to turn the mostly useless ore into a useful pure iron.  So, pure iron, obviously, costs more than iron ore.

Now, put that pure iron into the hands of a master craftsman.  That craftsman sweats over her forge, lovingly shaping the iron with hammer and anvil, coals and bellows.  She has spent years learning her craft, and now is spending her physical and mental energies into shaping that simple piece of iron into a beautiful wrought iron chandelier which she sells for hundreds, or possibly thousands of dollars.

Thousands of dollars translates into a pretty large chunk of gold.  The craftsman did exactly what the alchemists were questing for - she turned lead (or in this case, iron) into gold.  The magic that happens is simply transformation.  When we apply our skills and our knowledge alongside hard work and determination, we too, can transform lead into gold.

Onix and I will be turning aluminum cans, which would normally go to the curb for recycling, into artistic pieces, useful parts for our projects, and other handy things. We transformed some aluminum cans, on our first run, into a pretty pentacle design, and a replica of the head of a cat statue I have.  They're a bit rough, sure, but not too shabby for a first run.

As with anything in life, as we continue to practice, our skills will increase and our work will become more beautiful, more intricate, and have more value.  In fact, it is the only way to build value and skill in our pursuits.

"Results? Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward...." - Thomas Edison

Any person involved in doing anything creative and working to better their skills at it turns lead into gold.  In the house that I am currently renovating, I am putting my energy in with all the hard work on the floors and walls, and that will transform into gold when we sell this house.  I transform cloth into clothing.  I transform ingredients into bread.  I transform empty databases and empty files into web sites and graphics.

How do you transform lead into gold?