Saturday, November 14, 2015


When George W. Bush and his administration formulated their response to the attacks on 9/11/2001 it appeared to me that he was dead wrong. But as he led our nation hell bent into war, I prayed that I instead could possibly be wrong about my assessment of appropriate response. Naturally ,and unfortunately I was not. We can see what self-righteous anger unleashes upon the world. Tit for tat responses, and the injustices such endless escalations unleash, never lead to good things. Epictetus was a Greek philosopher who "believed that philosophy was a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline." His sayings were recorded in the Enchiridion, or "handbook."
Everything has two handles, the one by which it may be carried, the other by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, don't lay hold on the action by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be carried; but by the opposite, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it, as it is to be carried. – Epictetus
There are laws of action and and inevitable response. In wood shop, as you get near the end of the cut with a hand saw, that's not the time to hurry and force your way through. It's time to hold back and cut slowly and with special deliberation. If you force the cut in haste, the wood will break and splinter in a ragged fashion that can't be fixed. There are lessons and wisdom be gained from the hands and through working with them.

Pay particular attention to the fact that we have two of them. They illustrate that we have a choice in how we respond to any given situation...  Grasping the issue by the one hand (and handle) or the other. For example, when the right hand guides the saw, the left hand steadies the wood, and in times of crisis and extreme uncertainty, the careful engagement of the left hand is necessary to bring stability and certainty before the right hand delivers its response. In the wood shop, would you start sawing before you have steadied the workpiece? uAll of human behavior is based on this model. And so when we act impulsively, as our nation did Bush and Cheney's bidding in response to the 9/11/2001 attack, we (and others) suffer ongoing consequences.

Following years of American bombings in Syria, and over a decade of bombing in Afghanistan and Iraq, it appears we have radicalized a generation of individuals who see themselves at war against western civilization. What happened last night in Paris has been happening in Syria and Iraq every day and night for years now as innocent lives are lost. It is sad as we witness the terror attack in Paris and as we observe the inevitable aftermath, that we are mired in this state of confusion resulting from the continuing stupidity of tit for tat response. Epictetus offered this advice:
28. If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you?
What has been identified as an ISIS attack on Paris was more than a verbal attack, but the same wisdom of Epictetus applies. There is a Chinese saying that if you face evil, rather than confronting it directly and becoming mired in it, simply proceed to do the good. Telling someone that simple truth while their blood is boiling in anger may be to no great effect. We witnessed it ourselves in the US following 9/11/2001. But prayers for wisdom are called for at this time, and there is no better place to be on a stormy day than in the wood shop.

Froebel had suggested leading the child to understand the interconnectedness of all things. When you are in the wood shop and aligned through your creativity with the universe, your power to be of good effect is greater than you might imagine.

Make, fix, create and help others to learn likewise.


  1. Am moved by this, Doug. Very wise words, indeed.

  2. Thank you for posting this!