Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hand skills are not the boobie prize...

I had heard that skilled hands are what God gives to those who are not given the gifts of intellect. Have YOU ever heard such nonsense? (It is a bit like thanking God for sparing you from the Hurricane that killed all your neighbors.) You can see this notion, one gift or the other paved in stone in American education, as children hit middle school and decisions are made as to whether they are to go on a college path or wander off a less distinct path toward the trades.

This mistaken notion is the result of a mistaken understanding of the close relationship between the brain and the hands. In essence, the hands and brain co-evolved as a behavioral system, according to Frank Wilson, MD in his book The Hand, How it use shapes the brain, language and human culture.   To waste that essential connection between the two is to lay waste economy and culture in future generations.

Odd, as I think of these things in the night there is a distinct clarity in how the story of the hands and mind can best be told. The words are there in my lucid dreaming, and yet when I get to the keyboard in the morning, they elude me, and I am left wandering and wondering how to state clearly and precisely that which should be obvious to all those of us who do anything beyond nose picking with our fingers and hands. The hands literally touch every facet of human existence. If we know something certain, and certainly we do, it is because the hands have tested it. If we live in a world of wonderful objects in homes that withstand wind and weather, human hands and mind working in harmony have made our lives so.

And so, based on one mistaken notion there are those who have become utterly convinced that their educational status conveys to them the privilege of doing little more than nose picking with their hands. The purpose of this blog is to inform them of what they have missed, and of giving greater voice to the hands that they may take their rightful place in American education and help us to thus avoid in the future the mess we are in now.

I am sorry the clarity of my lucid dreaming escapes me this morning on the keys. Thus my message is not full in this single post. But let me be perfectly clear. Skilled hands are no boobie prize, but the cultivated gift of an intelligent mind and vice-versa.

I was listening to Ali Velshi, CNN's financial correspondent talking about Wall Street on the Jon Stewart show. Velshi described Wall Street's rise and fall as a gigantic mood ring, telling more about the mood (these days anxiety) of investors than about the actual profits, losses and potentials of the companies represented on the exchange. Our economy has gotten so out of hand, our "experts" so out of touch that we are allowing them to control the welfare of our nation. While American people are losing their life savings, Wall Streeters are "in the swing of it" making money whether it swings one way or the other in response to the rise or fall of essentially unrelated indexes. What a perfect illustration of our current dilemma. Another perfect illustration is a banking proposal that millions of homes be destroyed to take them off the market and restore the value of other housing "stock," which is a term intended to make real people's homes seem unimportant, and the lives they've invested in their properties of no consequence.  Does that make you want to scream, or what? We have certainly become a nation of heartless nincompoops... at least in the financial sector.

Want to escape the stupidity and anxiety? Take your mind in hand. Settle your nerves. Make your investments close to home. Build a wood shop. Buy a tool. Start a garden. Cook dinner at home tonight. Your mind, heart, hands, economy, and our culture will show signs of improvement.

Today in the wood shop, I am preparing projects for school and making small sliding top boxes. You can see how the box is assembled in the photo at above. One end is mitered and the other is secured with a tenoned piece low enough for the sliding lid to pass over as the box is opened.

Make, fix and  create...


  1. May I take that the sexual innuendo in your blog post title was quite unintentional Doug? ;-)

    WVC = conelst which is just one letter away from being cone-lust :-)

  2. Quite. No more sexual than making your own baked burrito. In either case, there was no innuendo intended.

  3. Anonymous11:29 AM

    “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

    Lao Tzu

    Non-attachment – even or especially to ones own self-image – is the necessity for personal change. If we are open to change and to new possibilities and perspectives, without buying into them blindly, we can grow.


  4. Wise words, Scrap. Well said.