Thursday, March 16, 2017

the impulse to create...

Yesterday in the CSS wood shop we had a new student attending for just the day. About half way through the one hour class he announced, "I already know that this is my favorite class." Why would that be? Perhaps because he was already making a thing that he perceived as useful, that he had designed himself, that served as a sample of his learning, that was concrete in its form and that he could take home. He also said, despite being in third grade, "I've never used a hammer before." The act of making something useful is primal according to both definitions of the word.
  1. relating to an early stage in evolutionary development; primeval. "primal hunting societies" synonyms: original, initial, earliest, first, primitive, primeval "the primal source of living things" Psychology relating to or denoting the needs, fears, or behavior that are postulated (especially in Freudian theory) to form the origins of emotional life. "he preys on people's primal fears"
  2. essential; fundamental. "rivers were the primal highways of life" synonyms: basic, fundamental, essential, elemental, vital, central, intrinsic, inherent "primal masculine instincts"
The impulse to own and the impulse to create are somewhat different in their effects. Thorsten Veblen in The Instinct of Workmanship described the relationship between pecuniary impulses and the impulse of workmanship as follows
"... the only authentic end of work under the pecuniary dispensation is the acquisition of wealth; since the possession of wealth in so far exempts its possessor from productive work; and since such exemption is a mark of wealth and therefore of superiority over those who have nothing and therefore must work it follows that addiction to work becomes a mark of inferiority and therefore discreditable. Whereby work becomes distasteful to all men instructed in the proprieties of the pecuniary culture; and it has even become so irksome to men trained in the punctilios of the servile, predatory, phase of this culture that  it was once credibly proclaimed by a shrewd priesthood as the most calamitous curse laid on mankind by a vindictive God. Also, since wealth affords means for a free consumption of goods, the conspicuous consumption of goods becomes a mark of pecuniary excellence, and so it becomes an element of respectability in any pecuniary culture, and presently becomes a meritorious act and even a requirement of pecuniary decency. The outcome is conspicuous wastefulness of consumption, the limits of which , if any, have apparently not been approached hitherto."
Veblen, one of the pioneers of sociology, wrote the preceding in 1914 or so. Since then the pecuniary impulse has completely overwhelmed  our more nativist impulses of workmanship and craftsmanship and has pushed our environment to the brink as we face global warming and waste of the land and its resources.

Getting back in balance with nature and restoring a more wholesome sense of self, requires that we learn to create objects of useful beauty through the exercise of thrift.

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

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