Saturday, May 14, 2011

pick up a stick...

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."
- Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)

This morning, I'm interested in the relationship between measured intelligence and depression, and there's method in my madness. First, it has been long noted that men and women of higher measured intellect have a higher incidence of depression. There's a lot of speculation as to why this could be true. Some think that higher intellect brings greater awareness of complexity, and the complications of modern life. Secondly, studies have shown that episodes of depression have direct effect on performance IQ. This should be much easier to explain, as depression is known to cause one to become inattentive and distracted, focused on things other than the task at hand... which often involves learning and creativity.

I am interested in this because I know from personal experience that being engaged in the wood shop makes me feel better. When I am engaged or have been engaged in making objects of useful beauty, transforming raw, rough materials (wood) into finished, useful objects, there are feelings of power, completion and satisfaction that arise within me.

If we were to combine the the wood shop and laboratory with the classroom, creating one seamless experience of emotional and intellectual enrichment, can you see the value of the lessons we might create?

The following is from Charles H. Ham's book, Mind and Hand, 1886, exploring the idea that man is the wisest and most powerful of all animals because he has hands.
There is a legend to the effect that on the day when Adam revolted against his Maker, the animals in the turn revolted against him, and ceased to obey him.

"Adam called on the Lord for help, and the Lord commanded him to take a branch from the nearest tree and make of it a weapon, and strike with it the first animal that should refuse to obey him. Adam took the branch, the leaves fell from it of their own accord, and he found himself furnished with a stick proportioned to his height. When the animals saw this weapon in the hands of the man they were seized with an instinctive fear mingled with wonder, and they did not dare to attack him. A lion alone, bolder than the rest, leaped upon him to devour him, but Adam, who stood upon his guard, swift as lightning whirled his stick and felled him to the earth with a single blow! At this sight the terror of the other animals was so great that they approached him trembling, and in token of their submission licked the stick that he held in his hand."*

Throughout all the early ages the stick was both the symbol and the instrument of power; and it is only the hand that can grasp and wield the stick. The early kings reigned by virtue of the strong arm and supple hand. They claimed to be descended fro Hercules, and their emblem of power was a knotty stick. Nor does empire depend less up the hand now than it did in the morning if time.
So in the interest of inquiry, I offer this simple test for the value of engagement of the hands in the relationship between intelligence, and depression and the hands. Pick up a stick and wave it in the air. Like Adam's stick, it should be proportioned to your own height. See if there are feelings that arise from it. Take note of your own thoughts. See if something lifts in your own spirits. You may feel foolish doing so, or you may feel something more. Let me know, please, as I hope that this might reveal things that interest us all.

And in the meantime, Make, fix and create.

*"The Story of the Stick" p. 2 Translated and adapted from the French of Antony RĂ©al

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