The Tale of the Sculptor and the Alligator

Jade Alligator
Note: I shared this fable at Nebraska Debate Institute this August during my postmodernism lecture to the Lincoln Douglas Debate Workshop, as a introductory encounter with what I referred to as “poststructural constructivism” (per my Luhmann, Whitehead, Serres and Deleuze influences), for the purpose of understanding the extent of how Philosophies instantiated into Theory and Practice/Politics profoundly shape the possibilities and the limits of such instantiations. Given its positive reception, I thought I’d share it here as well in a little more finished form.

The Tale of the Sculptor and the Alligator

by Jamie Saker

A Sculptor, employed by the Sovereign, was known far and wide for his ability to create remarkable likenesses of creatures from stone. As the Sovereign would conquer new lands and cross rugged mountains, he would send great pieces of rock back for the Sculptor to work: Persian red marble, soft white marble and stones of even more exotic flair. Upon receiving a new stone block, the Sculptor would grab his tools and dive into creation, chipping, chiseling and carving massive stone alligators, each reflecting the color and intensity of their original stone.

One day, the Sovereign sent a rare, large block of jade with a request: “As my daughter’s wedding is soon, I ask that you purpose this special stone and carve her a giant swan. This would please me greatly.” Gladly, the Sculptor accepted the assignment and moved the massive stone into his workshop. Weeks passed and the Sculptor was naught to be seen, keeping himself locked away in his workshop for all hours with the special stone with only the endless sound of hammering and scraping to escape its confines. Mere days before the wedding, a message was sent to the Sovereign that the work was complete. Arriving at the Sculptor’s workshop, the Sovereign was presented with a massive object enshrouded with a single white sheet. “Behold,” said the Sculptor as he tugged at the cloth, “I present my greatest accomplishment yet!” The sheet flew to the ground, unveiling a giant, brilliant green alligator.

Enraged, the Sovereign implored the Sculptor to account for this most improper beast expressed in the precious jade, reminding of his most clear request for a swan, appropriate for the royal celebration. “But Sir,” protested the Sculptor, “How can you expect me to produce such an animal when every rock you send me already contains an alligator inside?”

(credit to Michelangelo Buonarroti and François Laruelle for their influences and to Chris Kraus for encouraging the use of colorful words)

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