Sunday, April 03, 2011

slow making

We've all heard of the slow foods movement. The idea of making things quickly, too easily, thus providing empty calories for the creative soul is a notion we should explore, and thence avoid as unhealthy for the human spirit. Blog reader Amy sent the following quote from a novel, Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. LeGuin:
"It was a good thing for me to learn a craft with a true maker. It may have been the best thing I have done. Nothing we do is better than the work of handmind. When mind uses itself without the hands it runs the circle and may go too fast; even speech using the voice only may go too fast. The hand that shapes the mind into clay or written word slows thought to the gait of things and lets it be subject to accident and time. Purity is on the edge of evil, they say."
One of the things that can slow a person down in woodworking is the knowledge that what one makes can last a hundred years or more. When an item is crafted with useful beauty in mind, it transcends not only the years it may last, but also the need one might feel to hurry in its making. What are the few extra minutes to do things right when each moment of attention is witnessed in the finished piece for such a lengthy span of time? What's the rush in the light of generations?

We have become so impulsive, so undeliberative in our actions, that I urge my readers to contemplate the very slow making of things. Can we invest greater mind through the application of conscious attention of greater magnitude in the making of the things that fill our lives and awaken our sense of beauty? And what would the effects of such actions be?

It seems that much of our hurry is driven by the metaphor, "time is money." But time is not money. It is the opportunity to invest care, carefulness, attention, listening. What if our new metaphor for time was craftsmanship?

Make, fix and create.


  1. I had a high school student years ago who wrote in an essay, "Time isn't money . . . for time becomes your life." Loved that line so much I used it to write a song. I used to sing it to the seniors toward the end of the year. Thanks for the reminder . . . money is just a another form of numerical measurement, and that kind of measurement is what, I'm afraid, we are telling more and more kids makes up quality of life. Certainly on far too wide a basis it's being used to determine quality of education. Thanks for your daily musings.

  2. Thoughtful, careful and attentive people make for a good society, as well as good craftsmen. Why aren't teachers being trained to know that the lessons that our students learn from their classroom experiences are far more powerful than the tiny bits of information that we try to shove into their heads?

  3. As an almost live-long knitter, I understand how the tiny, repetitive actions of craftsmanship build up into a masterful work of art. It's a very different way of looking at the world, a life, and a moment of time that is chosen to be used in a particular way.

    I can't tell you the number of people who have approached me as I knit in public and, as a backhanded compliment, exclaimed, "I don't have the time or patience to knit!" To which I've responded, "I don't have the patience NOT to. We're both just standing here waiting ... but eventually I'll walk away with a tangible product that can be used and admired. What will you walk away with?" Thank you for extending that idea into other realms and values of living.

  4. Jim, Chris and Deborah, well put.

  5. I'm a knitter, too, and I love Deborah's post. I left a comment on the online version of your article at the UU World, and created a link to it for the UU Ravelry group.

  6. Like Deborah, I'm a knitter and I love your message. I left a comment about it at UU World, and created a link to your article on the UU Ravelry group.