Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What is reality?

I spent Tuesday afternoon with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow, writers about science, evolution, and religion. According to Michael's view religion and the invention of God were man's attempt to come to an understanding of reality. Now science is fulfilling that position, and perhaps a better term for God would be reality, or universe. However, it seems that folks want to believe that God is personal, cares for them, agrees with them and gives less than two hoots for anyone else. I guess that kind of thinking preserves a sense of specialness and superiority. I am reminded of the Zen story where the man's wife had died and he asked the Buddhist priest to recite the sutras in her behalf. But he said, "before I pay you any money, I want to make certain that you guarantee that my wife's spirit receives the benefit of your prayer." "All sentient beings benefit when the sutras are recited," The priest replied. "Well can't you read them so that woman across the street that my wife hated so, doesn't receive benefit?" The man asked. And so, we human beings tend to be a narrow minded lot, selfish in our perceptions, unwilling to surrender our own comfort of body and belief for the survival of species that are threatened on all sides of us.

I was attempting to explain to Michael and a bit to Connie (we were on a walk on a narrow trail and conversation with two folks at the same time was impossible) that the hands are essential to our understanding of reality, and they shape not only our intellect and understanding, but also our character as we learn and develop under the inspiration of craftsmanship. Those who live with a passion that requires growth tend to be the most moral of human kind, whether their passion involves making beautiful and useful things, or something more temporal like the making of music.

Our planet is suffering. We've discovered that we have an abundance of oil, and fossil fuels enough to destroy the planet and at least half of our kind are giddy about the prospects of that. And so, how do we bring things into bounds? When we live out of touch, meaning that the hands are no longer creatively engaged, we put everything at risk, and all on the line. When I was in college we celebrated the very first Earth Day, and as an innocent, I presumed that my own generation would amount to something more than rampant consumerism. And yet, by the time I became a craftsman in the 70's I saw that we were losing touch. Corporations seem to rule nearly all. Schools now are places where children are kept from the experiences and exercises that would help them arrive at creative and responsible lives. Even science is held at arm's length, to be gotten from books and not from engagement in reality.

I realize that I could let days or weeks pass here on the blog. I have very little more to say that I've not said over and over again. Everything is in your hands. No sense reading here if you then choose to do nothing about what you've read. And yet, I am compelled to write, though it is not because I do not trust you to understand what I've said. I hope that with practice my message becomes succinct. Where the hands are engaged, the heart will be also. What we learn hands-on is learned best and to greatest lasting effect. Or as it says at the top of the page:
"We engage the world and its wonders, sensing and creating primarily through the agency of our hands. We abandon our children to education in boredom and intellectual escapism when we fail to engage their hands in learning and making."
Today at the Clear Spring School, Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow will meet with the high school class. I will have free day with my first, second and third grade students. This afternoon, my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students will finish making benches and begin helping me make new knives for wood shop.

Make, fix and create...

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