"It is the hand that enables the mind to realize in a thousand ways its highest imaginings, its profoundest reasonings, and its most practical inventions." --James MacAlister, Superintendent of Schools of the City of Philadelphia, 1882.
This morning, I am continuing my competition with the Chinese and other developing nations by making small boxes. An order from Appalachian Spring depleted my inventory, and so I am put to work replenishing supply. Cutting hundreds of small parts would be considered mindless work. Using a sled on the table saw, I can easily make repetitive cuts to very precise dimensions, but each piece has to be examined for imperfections that would lead to a less than perfect box. But still, trained hand and eye simplify the task to the point that my mind can wander into other things of a more philosophical concern.
The capacity to do such work is dependent on what Sir Charles Bell, in 1864 called "muscle sense," as follows:
"By such arguments I have been in the habit of showing that we possess a muscular sense, and that without it we could have no guidance of the frame. We could not command our muscles in standing, far less in walking, leaping, or running, had we not a perception of the condition of the muscles previous to the exercises of the will. And as for the hand, it is not more the freedom of its action which constitutes its perfection, than the knowledge which we have of these motions, and our consequent ability to direct it with the utmost precision."--The Hand: Its Mechanisms and Vital Endowments as Evincing DesignAnd so as my hands are trained smart, and the eyes, too, I reflect on the wisdom of the hands... My hands and yours as well. Some get the message easily, as it reflects what they know from their own experience. Some have been taught that labor, even skilled, is a form of denigration, to be escaped through refuge in academic pursuits.
It is easy to explain all this to some. It is much more difficult to explain to some who have not had the joy of creating something with their own hands. If you are one who gets it, join in the expression of these meaningful values to others. Make, Cook, Sew, Fix, Create, Plant, Nurse, Tend, and Care through the creative capacity of your hands. Then talk about it. There are some who will not be inspired to create until you have shared your own joy in the making of real, beautiful and useful things.