Thursday, September 29, 2011

three simple tools

I am busy writing other things today and so have re-posted this article from Feb. 2010. If a day passes with nothing new here, I  remind new readers that they can dig in the archive of over five years of previous posts at right.

These three simple, often taken for granted tools each share a common technology: that required for making, forging, and sharpening steel. Each is designed to cut wood, each has a range of specific functions and each requires some skill to use effectively. With greater levels of skill, each of these can operate outside its range of purpose. For example, you could use the knife or chisel to do the work of the plane, but it would take far greater skill and effort. The plane was specifically designed using knife and chisel making technology to eliminate the need for skill and attention that use of either the chisel or knife would require to meet its specific purpose. On the other hand, each of these tools could be used to sharpen a pencil, right?

While we take common tools for granted in the same way we use our hands unconsciously 10,000 times or more each day, tools themselves are a collectivization and expression of human knowledge, focused toward the expression of skill. Each tool was designed upon the legacy and understanding of other tools toward the purpose of greater certainty* in its use.

We think of discourse (whether written or spoken) as being the means through which knowledge is passed between individuals, groups, and generations. But we will only come to a clear understanding of our humanity when we understand that the objects that inhabit our lives do the same thing.  Tools in fact do much, much more. They impart the intelligence gathered through multiple generations, placing its potential in fresh hands. The difference between most objects and the tools we use is that tools actually empower us as human beings to create.

Sadly, the objects we select to fill the lives of our children, do not. And so, in a nutshell, this is the order of power... words, objects, tools. What we give children is schools often is hung up on the first alone.

*by certainty, I make reference to David Pye.

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