Friday, November 16, 2018

Many thanks, many things.

I received many wonderful good wishes yesterday on my birthday, including a song from the North of Norway, and a Pablo Neruda poem from friends in Stavanger. The song was recorded by phone lit within a forest of city lights, reminding me that even in the dark winter months, there is joy there in the far north, most particularly when shared with friends. The Neruda poem is about the love of things, and most particularly about the things that the hands embrace and make useful.

We're not far evolved from dogs in that. I gave Rosie a stick with an old rope wrapped around it, and it became her newest friend. It was pulled at, tossed in the air a bit, carried from one end of the yard to the other and of course chewed mightily. We are like that with new things. We may not chew as much. But we are in love with the world of things. I, in particular, am in love with tools that empower the depths of our humanity, in that they can be used by us in service to each other through the making of useful and beautiful things.
 "Man is a Tool-using Animal. Weak in himself, and of small stature, he stands on a basis, at most for the flattest-soled, of some half square foot, insecurely enough; has to straddle out his legs, lest the very wind supplant him. Feeblest of bipeds! Three quintals are a crushing load for him; the steer of the meadow tosses him aloft, like a waste rag. Nevertheless he can use Tools, can devise Tools: with these the granite mountain melts into light dust before him; seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him without Tools; without Tools he is nothing, with Tools he is all." –– Thomas Carlyle
One of the ways to build a curriculum in wood shop is to focus on tools. This was the approach used in the Russian System of industrial arts training. And yet, if, we fail to guide the tools toward meaningful use, we've misplaced the better part of things. A hammer can be idly pounded toward the destruction of stuff, or used to create lasting beautiful things. Those lasting beautiful and useful things can serve in the hands of man far longer than the stick wrapped in rope. Perhaps that's why Otto Salmon made a progression of useful models the core of Educational Sloyd. Putting tools at the center of learning might have missed the more important point.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

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