There was a man who set out to carve a statue. He spent days selecting just the right block of wood. He considered the color, the grain, the hardness and texture. At last, the perfect block of wood was found and he took it home.
He set the block of wood up on a table in his studio, and spent days selecting just the right tools with which to carve. He pondered the pencils with which to draw on the wood the first rough outlines of the statue's shape. He mused over the chisels, saw blades, and other implements. At last, he made his selections with utmost care and began to carve.
The man spent a month carefully, precisely, drawing the rough outline of the statue which he beheld in his mind on all four sides of the block of wood. Each line was exact, not too wide, not to narrow, not too dark. He painstakingly measured how far from the edges and the center every inch of the lines should be and with sweat pouring down his brow, sketched the shape onto the wood.
At last the day arrived when he was ready to carve. He removed each chip of wood precisely, agonizing over each action, sometimes taking an hour to make a single cut. At last, after several more months, the statue was roughed in.
Stepping back from his carving he looked at it critically.
"Hmmm," he said, peering at a spot on the upper section of the statue. "That's slightly crooked. I need to fix that."
Taking his tools in hand again, the man began to smooth the statue, refine it's lines, adjust the fine details.
As he worked, visitors came to his studio. They marveled at the statue, praised his skills, spent hours drinking in the beauty.
Still, the man knew that the statue wasn't perfect. It mattered not to him that everyone praised it, or expressed how beautiful they felt it appeared. He could see the rough spots, he could see where the outlines didn't quite match his vision, and so he smiled at their praise and continued to work.
Many more months went by, and one day a friend came to visit him.
"My friend," the visitor requested. "May I have a look at your marvelous statue? The one you were carving when I was here last year?"
"Certainly," the man agreed. He reached into a drawer, extracted a tooth-pick and handed it to his friend.
"This is certainly a fine jest," the visitor laughed. "But now may I please see the statue?"
"That is all that is left," the sculpture explained, a tear trickling from his eye.
"What on earth happened?" The visitor wanted to know. "Why it was taller than you are yourself when I saw it last!"
"I know," the man nodded his head.
"And it was beautiful," the visitor went on. "More so than any other statue in a museum!"
"Yes," the man agreed. "It was."
"Then what happened?" The visitor insisted. "Did someone break in? Destroy your work?"
"No," the man explained, sighing heavily. "I did that myself."
The visitor looked at him in shocked silence so the man went on.
"You see," he said. "All I could see were the rough spots, the places where it wasn't correct, the mistakes. I sanded, I carved, but the more I worked, the more it looked wrong to me. In my pursuit of perfection, the statue wore away until all that is left, is that tooth-pick you hold. I'm sorry."
"How terrible," the friend comforted him. "I feel for you. Well then, perhaps I could view some of your other works? Surely you have many of those?"
"I'd be glad to show you," the man agreed. "I fear though, that I have no other statues, but..." He opened the drawer again and took out a small box. "I do have a lovely collection of tooth-picks."