All Things Conform to the Shape Flesh Imposes

Diamond cutter

There’s a lot of fuss about the hardest naturally occurring mineral in the universe. Beyond the industrial uses, I get that diamonds are shiny and pretty. People seem to like them enough they’ll pay ludicrous sums to have them.


When I think of the Lapidary at a desk, cutting diamonds…it seems ironic that soft hands shape and polish something renown for its durability and resistance to wear. Yeah, yeah, I know. It isn’t skin that cleaves the gem, it’s tools, but when you boil it down, hands are running the machines, giving shape to something so much harder. Afterall, tools do not run themselves (yet).

Bagger 288

In that light, I find I have to alter my understanding of what hardness really is. When whole mountain ranges can be excavated, diamonds lose their luster next to that kind of erosive capability. Mining is an extreme example, of course, but really, everything that we touch, we shape. From your living room to your neighborhood, from your county to your country, try and find something that hasn’t been changed from its natural form.

Don’t mean to say it’s all bad, either.Julius_Caesar_Coustou_Louvre

Shaping things is what we do, what we’re good at, what makes us special. We change things to suit us, whether we’re turning cotton into clothing or turning ore into copper wire. Skyscrapers and highways don’t just crystallize from the soil.  And great art is the pinnacle of our innate ability to alter our environment (yes, I consider our space program a masterpiece of creative prowess. Science can be art).


We leave our mark everywhere, which in a lot of ways is very cool. Individually, we’re pretty fragile, but in concert we change entire planets. There are days it’s hard to wrap my head around that. So if hardness is determined by one object’s ability to affect the other, then flesh is the hardest substance in the universe. 

It’s a superpower and an enormous responsibility. If we can wreck a planet, we can make it better, too.


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