Saturday, December 23, 2017

I think, therefore I am, I think...

I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think... Those were the opening words on an album by the Moody Blues, a rock band formed in England in 1964. The words are a rough and altered quote from Descartes, also played with by George Carlin who said,
“I think I am, therefore, I am... I think.”

Regardless of which you prefer, Moody Blues, Carlin or Descartes, the line spells trouble for humanity, in that it fails to grasp the active role that man must play in the harmonies of life.

In the early days of manual arts training, educational policy makers were concerned that the motions of the craftsmen might be mindless and devoid of thought. Little did they consider that thought itself might be just as mindless and devoid of meaningful content.

There are special things that happen when hands are placed in service to family and community. Care is expressed, and in caring, even through the smallest acts of it, the fabric of society is woven tight, and given warmth and strength.
"Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once.

"Yet although the senses sometimes deceive us about objects that are very small or distant, that doesn’t apply to my belief that I am here, sitting by the fire, wearing a winter dressing-gown, holding this piece of paper in my hands, and so on. It seems to be quite impossible to doubt beliefs like these, which come from the senses.

"Another example: how can I doubt that these hands or this whole body are mine? To doubt such things I would have to liken myself to brain-damaged madmen who are convinced they are kings when really they are paupers, or say they are dressed in purple when they are naked, or that they are pumpkins, or made of glass. Such people are insane, and I would be thought equally mad if I modeled myself on them.

"What a brilliant piece of reasoning! As if I were not a man who sleeps at night and often has all the same experiences while asleep as madmen do when awake – indeed sometimes even more improbable ones. Often in my dreams I am convinced of just such familiar events – that I am sitting by the fire in my dressing-gown – when in fact I am lying undressed in bed! Yet right now my eyes are certainly wide open when I look at this piece of paper; I shake my head and it isn’t asleep; when I rub one hand against the other, I do it deliberately and know what I am doing. This wouldn’t all happen with such clarity to someone asleep." — RenĂ© Descartes 1639
You may be intrigued as I am of Descartes' reliance on his hands in the assertion of his own reality.

As I continue to make boxes and to teach, some of the steps gradually fall away, reducing them in number to get the best results with fewest opportunities for mistakes. The photo shows two simple devices used to make better boxes. How much better is it to know we are real when we do things that are real, thus affirming our reality to others as well as ourselves? Lots and loads.

Make, fix and create... Do so and perhaps some nagging questions about the meaning of life will become unnecessary.

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