Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Over the weekend, I attended what will be the first of a number of holiday parties. I saw an old friend whom I had not seen for at least a year. He is vice-president of a very successful bank. He mentioned the challenge he has in seeing results of his work and mentioned that those of us with the opportunity to make real objects have an advantage of sorts. "I can go out and look at the subdivisions built by the contractors we loan money to," he said, "but there something missing when it's not your own making."

There is a psychological concept proposed by Albert Bandura at Stanford called "Self-Efficacy".

He describes "self-efficacy" as follows: "Perceived self-efficacy is defined as people's beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs produce these diverse effects through four major processes. They include cognitive, motivational, affective and selection processes."

In essence, "self-efficacy" arises through a "feedback loop" with the environment as I have described in earlier posts. While many people are dependent on other people to establish a framework of perceived self-efficacy, a craftsman or artist, while in the creative act, establishes that framework directly in his or her concrete relationship with the materials of choice.

There is difference between in living in the concrete, vs. the abstract. We can know about things in theory, and we can rationalize our lives to create a sense of our own purpose and creative power through internal dialog. We can imagine a brick in our hands, or pick one up and actually know its weight, texture and strength. Feelings and meanings that come second hand through the use of the creative imagination, are once or twice removed from physical reality. It is the difference between abstract involvement in providing money for building a house and the actuality of building it yourself. Both may contribute to the economy but one contributes something special to the soul.

You may feel that on occasion I am a bit harsh in my statements about academics and their detachment from reality. Believe me, I wish them no harm. The real harm is self inflicted. They have allowed themselves to miss the hand to hand, day to day concrete reality of life. I would wish for them to live beyond their imaginings and to know something of the creative capacity of their own hands through woodworking, cooking, gardening, or hands-full, hearts-stretched-to-the-limit service to others.

It is the holiday season. Please give yourself a present on me. Take a chance on making something. You will make more of yourself at the same time. Today I delivered the toy cars and trucks made by our students to the local food bank. The photo above is of our 5&6th grade class with cars that they made.

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