When asked, I often hear people answer they’d rather be the hammer than a nail, perhaps a variation on Longfellow’s hammer and anvil analogy in his Village Blacksmith poem. I presume they choose being the hammer for obvious authoritative yet monotonous role of aggressively striking the head of a passive nail waiting to be driven into wood or dry wall, which they perceive is better than the alternative. (That is to say being a nail waiting to be struck.) Still others want to be the hammer with its flashy display of brute force, making a lot of noise in the process, regardless of the alternative. Loud and proud is the hammer as it pounds its point and importance home with every motion; whether it hits its target or not.
But what of the hammer after that nail has been firmly planted into place? Well, naturally the hammer goes on to the next nail, and the next, whacking away until all nails are in their place; some crooked, a few bent, the others straight, but all in their place. Until finally the hammer is laid to rest in a toolbox or cabinet drawer. Useful nevermore (as far as this scenario is concern.) However that initial nail remains useful; faithful to its lifelong task of joining other nails, a community of selfless nails, in supporting a sign containing a message of the utmost importance, or a picture frame protecting a family’s happiest memory for all time, or a structure intended to keep weather and evil out, and comfort and love in.
Now, I have nothing against the hammer personally. The hammer, like all things, has its job to do; its purpose in this life. And the world would be a much different place if there were no hammers. The hammer coupled with the sickle symbolizes the might of working men and women. Then there were two Afro-American legends: Hank “the Hammer” Aaron and John Henry the steel-driving man; wielding a sledge hammer in each hand. As a Marine my M16-A2 Service Rifle had a “hammer” that I could not exist without. And justice would be silent without the bang of a judge’s gavel. So no, I have nothing against the hammer.
However I do wonder about those who misunderstand the hammer’s true relationship to a nail; those who assume nails are inferior. The hammer is thought to be mighty as it transfers the might of the one who wields it, but it is the strength of the nail which holds two objects together; the hammer’s true legacy. A child could drive a small nail into a soft surface with the heel of his father’s shoe, instead of a hammer. But there is no substitute for a nail.
Yes sir, I’d rather be the nail, oh excuse me a nail. Battered and bruised, yet triumphant. Continuing to be useful no matter how anonymous or subtle the role. I’d rather be a nail; either on a solo mission or as part of an infantry of rugged nails. I aspire to be a nail, a contributing member of a solid community of nails; whether our lot in life is to hold a baby crib together or keep a coffin lid closed. The hammer’s argument rings in our ears for a season. But the humble message of a nail is observed for a lifetime!