When he had created the picture in his mind he thought that if men could see it they would weep for joy and thanksgiving, and they would pay him money and he could eat. “But,” he thought, “men don’t pay for creations in the mind. In fact, if men could see minds, they would pay with creations of their minds, and I would still be hungry.”
“So,” he thought, “I have to produce a painting. Damn, it is so hard, it takes so much sustained effort to translate a picture of my mind into physical reality. And all that effort and thought takes so much sheer physical energy. It requires food and drink—material values—in order to produce a material value, as if the sandwiches, apples and coffee were blended with my vision, and all these together were transformed into a painting. Oh, why can’t mental creation be free of the need for food ? Say, what? If I had not eaten yesterday I would not be mentally picturing anything today but food.
“Now, who says that the making of material values is not the greatest of virtues? It requires independence, logic, honesty, integrity, a continuously willed effort to make sure that a mental idea is made into material reality. If it stays only in the mind it will rot in the mind, it will die in the mind.
“Oh, but it this so hard, continually measuring and comparing the growing painting with my mental vision. Such a physical ache of continuously poised hand and brush, of body bent and set. I need a short break. How does that new song go? ‘Write that report, meet that deadline, be so strong! Pour that steel, paint that painting, sing that song!’ These are the commands of the virtue of productiveness. Everything thought or done beforehand is in response to , and guided by, these commands. Virtue is not an end in itself; it is not a mental thing. It is the mind and body living and giving itself more life.
“So, while I yet have strength, I will finish this painting. Surely this one will sell. A painting of a man chopping down a tree in a forest. How the blade of the axehead gleams! How pure it is! What a spark of productive life is there! The man’s broad forehead gleams, too. The flame of his mind, his purpose, his will. The tree is just about to fall; you can sense it! The gleam of his forehead is steady, unmoving; the gleam of the axe is slightly blurred, as it begins its downward sweep. A small group of people dressed in brown and green kneel at the left, useless hands held together in a circle of prayer. But he, the swinger of the axe; he, the master of the forest; he, the god of the earth, with red and white flannel shirt over powerful shoulders, sleeves rolled up—–his eyes and face blaze with proud determination, even as the tree is about to fall on the unproductive meek. He, in working, has forgotten them. He, the hero, doesn’t even know that they exist. He knows only one grand selfish thing—–his idea, his goal, his mind, his soul, is now, with this last touch of white—–a fact!