Tuesday, August 11, 2020

rats that drive and love it.

 Kelly  Lambert at the University of North Carolina has done extensive study of what she calls "effort driven rewards", that what we do has direct impact on how we feel and how we feel about ourselves. This is a lovely bit of research that confirms the necessity of engaging the world hands-first, by doing real things.


Make, fix and create.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Getting a full grip

There's an old idiom "all thumbs" to describe being physically inept regarding our ability to do things requiring the hands. 

The origins of the idiom are traced back to before 1546, as it was published in John Heywood's collection of proverbs written in 1546: "When he should get aught, each finger is a thumb."

These days, if you watch children and adults using their iPhones you'll see their thumbs moving rapidly, while the rest of their fingers are idle supporting the device. Our thumbs can be amazingly dextrous. 

What happens however, when the rest of the fingers providing functionality to the human hand are ignored? Will we suffer in intellect and character as a species if we fail to cultivate the full range of human grips?

Technology has put us at that point that it is altering the way we think. Each of the grips shown in the drawing are also ways of grasping. We grasp with the hands. We also grasp with the mind. If our fingers are over used in poking and dragging over the glass surfaces of our digital devices, to the neglect of the dexterity of our other fingers will we lose the stronger grip on reality that we get from the full use of our hands? If our children should get more than "aught" meaning goose egg, nada, naught, nil, nix, nothing, null, zero, zilch, zip, zippo, let them develop their full capacities to grasp reality, by doing real things.

I've been at work on my new book based on the contents of this blog, developed over quite a number of years. With a goal of no more than 60,000 words, I'm over one third complete at this point. We are having A+ Schools staff training today, preparing for Clear Spring School to become a full-fledged member of the  organization bringing arts integration into American education.

These are not normal times. Our nation is in a serious crisis.

Make, fix, create, and get a grip....

Monday, July 27, 2020

no lazy-bones

The following was translated from a placard at the Leipsic Manual Training School and should be shared with those boys and girls who are today trapped in schooling. We don't want any lazy-boned boys. Girls either for that matter.
"Listen to what we have to say, boys. It concerns every true boy. Every one of you who wants to become a true man likes to watch diligent workmen and wishes to do like them — that is to say, use the hammer and hatchet, the tweezers and gimlet, the plane and saw, the file and rasp, the bolt and solder, the blow-pipe, the modeling-tool and carving-knife, etc. Every boy who is a real boy tries to use these tools. He will find opportunities to do so in our manual training-school.

"We don't want to make artisans of you, for your leisure hours would not suffice for that; but we want to make you more skillful and clever than boys usually are. How many can drive a nail without hitting their fingers? How many can make kites that balance and fly well? How many, when the skates get shaky on the ice, can help themselves and need not run to the locksmith? Yes, many of you can not even point a pencil well, or put a wrapper around a school-book without making it look clumsy.

"Your parents mean to benefit you when they present you with a tool box at Christmas. How many of such boxes are shoved into the corner, where the tools rust and the box is covered with dust? You must have some one who teaches you how to use tools. Or you get a scroll-saw, and, after breaking a number of saw-blades, you succeed in sawing out of cigar-box boards a few clumsy patterns. Then you go to a joiner to have them glued and adjusted. He is the one who does the real work. Yet you give these things away as your work. It isn't right, boys! It can't be right!

"We must talk plainly, boys. Most of you do not know how to use tools. That needs to be learned. Most of you spend too much time in reading, and spoiling their precious eye-sight. When you are called to do a manual job for your mothers, you are at a loss how to go at it. Oh, what would have become of you had you been in Robinson Crusoe's place? You would have perished miserably. Come, boys, think of it!

Things should be different. When school is over and home tasks are done, a true boy spends an hour happily on the playground and in summer takes a bath in the river. In winter he may learn to work with his hands at the work-bench and the vise. After many hours of brain-work he uses his strength in planing and sawing, hammering and chiseling. He learns to see and admire lines of beauty in drawing, and working out his drawings in models. He furnishes models in clay and carves wood. He makes physical experiments, and works neat Christmas presents for his dear ones at home.

"And when, outside, the winter storms rage and the snow-flakes fall, our pupils come together in a warm room and work like good fellows to produce something, and laugh, chat, and sing in company, while book worms sit in corners like hermits. Our pupils have had such pleasures for several years. Come and join us.

But, remember, we don't want any 'lazy-bones.' If any of you like to shirk work, and after a few weeks, when the work gets harder, thinks he has a toothache, or perchance some other ache, don't let him come. We don't want him. We want diligent boys. All who like to work are welcome. Ask your parents. They will allow you to come for an hour or two where they know you are well looked after.

"Life is full of work, boys, now more than ever. Prepare for it. A true man learns to help himself, and we will show you how. So come, and be welcomed by The Masters of the Training-School." — Richard Lewis Klemm, 1889
Make, fix and create....

Sunday, July 26, 2020

An old diploma

A reader sent me a photo of his grandfather's graduation diploma from Gustaf Larsson's Sloyd Teacher Training School in Boston. Dana Andrews Stanley, upon graduating in 1912, became a teacher of the manual arts, leaving a lasting legacy among his students and within his family. 

Thousands, like Dana Andrews Stanley went on to teach woodworking throughout the US.

Recognizing that the power to create and to serve society through what we made, was just as important as literacy, the manual arts were an important part of American education. Then, in an odd twist, educational policy makers decided that all students were to go to college and the manual arts were brushed aside. 

We went from being a manufacturing nation to being one in which students attend college, fail to get college degrees and are left with massive debt and in which we're addicted to buying foreign made stuff. When you make something, you are not just making that thing. You are remaking yourself as a craftsman.

We must look at American education and make an important change. All students should have the opportunity to learn real things by doing real things.

Make, fix and create....

Saturday, July 25, 2020

First and second sleep

It was once well recognized and accepted in human culture that instead of going to bed and sleeping through the night, human beings would sleep for a few hours, then get up and do a few things, driven either by necessity or inward awakening, and then go back to bed. This was called first and second sleep by some. In 1840, Charles Dickens wrote in Barnaby Rudge (1840):  
"He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream."
You can read about it here: https://www.sciencealert.com/humans-used-to-sleep-in-two-shifts-maybe-we-should-again The point may be to help us toward finding a rich, more personal inner life. I can attribute much of my waking life creativity to being sleepless from about 2 AM until 3 or 3:30. It's a time in which the day just passed is done, sleep has begun to bring detachment from it, and the next day's wonders are fresh on the horizon. I learned the inlay technique that I've used on thousands of my small boxes by going to a lumber yard one day, becoming entranced with the variety of colors and textures of different species of woods, and then wondering in the middle of the night how I would use them in my work.

I think the larger portion of human creativity arrives to us through those times we are awake and unable to sleep. I do some of my best planning when we think I ought to be sleeping, but that is indeed the natural pattern of our human kind.

For that, we can make plans. Awaken and watch the wonders come. I thank my friend Grant Mallet, for helping me find a name for the phenomenon.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning lifewise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

getting better at zoom

Last night I attended the Oregon Guild of Woodworkers meeting via zoom, and it seems that with the pandemic, I'm zooming a lot. It allows me to connect with woodworkers from around the world from the convenience of my office. 

Today I have a zoom conference with folks from the Idea Center at Notre Dame (the university, not the cathedral), and tomorrow one with the program committee for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

I've been giving some thought to the importance of mistakes, and of forgiveness. Mistakes they say, are inevitable, even though we may have feelings of self-loathing when they happen. They do alert us to our own humanity. They may help train us to accept the humanity of others. Along with acceptance of blame, we accept our own humanity, and our responsibilities to attempt to do better. And the quicker we act on forgiveness, the faster we get back to the work at hand.

Only two of our presidents, to my knowledge have been woodworkers. One was Thomas Jefferson, though he likely had most of his work performed by slaves. The other is Jimmy Carter, who in time will be acknowledged as one of the greats, in that he's lived long and set an example of selfless service. There are some who despise him for that. I have a nice note from Jimmy Carter that I've kept on my bulletin board in my office, in which he thanked me for a copy of one of my books that I sent to him years ago.

I wonder if mistakes are part of the plan that sets us up for success... not success in having the right perfect stuff, but success in our arrival as fully functional human beings capable of such divinity as the practice of forgiveness. 

The world of manufactured stuff sets us up for an unreasonable competition of man vs. machine. Machines go out of whack over time. People, real people, have the opportunity to improve performance through the development of skill. But if we make a simple guess, that the reason we make mistakes is a divine plan to enable us to learn crucial lessons of forgiveness of others, would our mistakes no longer be necessary to our development? It's an experiment you can help me with. Get out there, and goof up. Then practice the forgiveness of others. You may discover that it helps. It's certainly one of the lessons we learn in wood shop.

I started last night's meeting with this brief, 8 minute video produced by the Arkansas Arts Council. https://youtu.be/L_lVlywDNo8

Make, fix, and create...

Monday, July 20, 2020

three little puppies...

I've been installing new equipment in the Clear Spring School wood shop and arranging the tools we already had to be of better service in the coming school year. This next year promises to be a doozie. We do not know whether we'll be able to have face to face classes, as that will depend on the success in removing the threat that Covid-19 presents to our families and community. Of course there's a need to have kids in school. And yes, there's a great need to keep our families safe.

I am preparing for the possibility that some at-home learning will have to be part of the new school year. The new planer and dust collector will help us to be ready to prepare take home kits for student learning.

I have been awakening in the middle of the night, thinking about the new book. If only I was able to be as poetic in the day, as the words that come in the night! Is there a higher consciousness to which we are attached when we are at the edge of sleep? I suspect so. At least when I awaken I'm able to dredge forward a few thoughts from a deeper state.

I'm proposing a slight adjustment of the title of the book. "Wisdom of Our Hands: Crafting self, family, community and human culture" feels a bit too cold and academic. To make it more personal, as if someone might take the book as a personal action plan (as is my hope), my slight change is as follows: "Wisdom of Our Hands: A guide to crafting self, family, community and human culture." It may be longer, but it implies that action may result, and as our world comes apart, to hell in a hand basket, we'll need a guide that restores the most powerful aspect of our humanity. The thoughtful relationship between head and hands in empathetic service to each other.

My wife is using this bit of time during the Covid-19 crisis to arrange photos from our lives into scrap books and she noted how many photos there are of my daughter Lucy and I in which she's in my lap and I'm reading to her. What joyous memories! I'm reminded of a story I used to tell from my own mind that Lucy requested over and over again, about the "three little puppies." I never told that story twice the same, and perhaps that will become my project when the "Wisdom of our hands" is complete and off to Linden Press for editing and publication.

Make, fix, and create.