Friday, October 14, 2011

today in the woodshop

This morning I will be shipping small boxes and then sanding all the things I made yesterday. It will be a busy day in the wood shop. Working on some of the small things I make can be fun. There is a rhythm to it and a full integration of left and right hands. A state of flow ensues. I feel like I'm in the groove. And this can happen in so many things beyond the wood shop. Just think of working in the garden or in the kitchen as examples. Just think of chopping with a sharp knife. We are taught to think of ourselves as being either left or right handed, but the truth is that the two hands are a system for handling materials and tools. While the left hand holds the stock, or positions the stock, the right hand directs the tool. And so being dexterous, requires being useful, skillful and attentive in both hands, not one alone.

If you are curious about this, try writing without having your other hand securing the paper.

When I worked my few days in manufacturing so many years ago, my efficiency which was noted by the "efficiency expert" timing my work (complete with stopwatch and clipboard) came from having both hands in motion. As my right positioned the piece of steel on the machine, my left was waiting its turn to remove the stock when in the next instant, the right would be reaching for more as the machine came down to form the part. I use the same efficiency of motion in the wood shop, integrating left and right in the making of small things, and if I were exclusively left or right handed, I would be incapable of efficiency.

And so it is rather crazy that we have become so obsessed over being left or right handed.

The same applies to the brain. We talk about being left brained or right brained, whereas in reality, unless we have had surgery permanently dividing the two hemispheres, we are single organisms with tasks of holding and acting designated to the two halves.

You might enjoy this earlier blog post whole not sum of parts that will help to explain it. If you look at the brain from an evolutionary standpoint, we might as well start out being bird brained, and it is not as bad as you might think.

From a bird brain perspective, as described by Iain McGilchrist in Master and His Emissary, the left brain would be looking for seed in a field of sand while the right brain would be sensing the world for predators, friends and foe, and each form of attention, that of the left and right, is essential for survival. Imagine one side of the brain holding the world and sensing one's position in it as the other writes, shapes or slices.

I think you can maybe see that parallel. It should not be any special surprise that what we see in our hands is mirrored in what we discover of the brain.

On a slightly different subject video gamers are beginning to discover fitness as described in this article on CNN, Why gamers are a great fit at the gym.
"In video games, you're constantly getting information about your achievements and (learning) how to do things better, "there's an opportunity to develop a mastery that's very much a key motivator."

That translates well to fitness, where tracking your accomplishments enables you to progress quicker. You know you've improved when you run an extra mile or dead lift another 50 pounds. People like to know they have control over their future. In video games, you can choose your path, the skills you want to improve, even your outfit. Making the same choices in your fitness regimen helps you feel empowered.

"Games make the goals really clear... You have to run from point A to point B, deliver a message, kill this bad guy. You have a very clear sense of 'If I just do these steps, I will succeed.' And let's call them quests because it sounds heroic. And who doesn't want to feel like a hero?"
It is ironic that they don't see the same things at work when we take a piece of wood and shape it into something useful and beautiful. There is a sense of the heroic when in the face of mindless consumerism, you become a craftsman and a maker of useful beauty.

My work from the last three days is shown in the photo above.  Still to come? Sanding and application of finish.

make, fix and create.

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