Wednesday, September 16, 2020

inlaid boxes and the message behind them

I began making small inlaid boxes in December of 1977 and managed to sell just a few to friends during the Christmas season. There was a not so secret message in them. I hoped that by sharing an understanding of the diverse species of American hardwood from which I made the inlay, an appreciation of our diverse hardwood forests would be established. I figured at the time, that me standing on a pedestal and shouting loudly about the ways we were neglecting to protect our forests would quickly fall on deaf ears. So my strategy was simple. Make inlaid boxes using diverse species of Arkansas hardwoods, and write the names of the hardwoods used on the bottom of each box.

It was a good strategy, as it provided income between furniture commissions, and it got the word out in an understated and non-confrontational manner.

I do wonder, however, whether I've been strong enough in my advocacy for our nation's forests. In about 1990 I created a display of Arkansas hardwoods in our state capital building, in the hopes of compelling legislators to take stronger action to protect our forests, and to create a better understanding of their value. Of course, the forests are valuable to the lumber business and the harvesting of biofuels, but they are also of vast importance to wildlife and to our own sense of self. No doubt, the legislators walked down the hall where my display was set up, and were thinking and talking about other things.

In the mid 1970's as the Vietnam war had come to a close, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower had warned us about, was concerned about needing to divert from the manufacture of wartime defoliants toward peaceful use. So Dow Chemical Company came up with slightly modified versions of the defoliants used in Vietnam and through the US Forestry Service began a program of defoliating our Arkansas hardwoods to allow faster growing pines to predominate. What a distressing thing that was. Just imagine helicopters spraying poisons over vast tracts of national forest. And what a terrifying thing it is when society at large adopts and industrialized approach to reality or to schooling.

Before Friedrich Froebel became a teacher, and before he in later years developed Kindergarten, he had been a mineralogist working with one of the foremost German scientists in the field of mineralogy. He had noted how a pattern among molecules at the center of a crystal would grow and grow from within, that same form infusing it throughout. As a mineralogist he recognized the same inherent patterning to be present in each living and unliving thing. Each of us and every child of course, if given proper conditions would grow to emulate the divinity within. The point of education, therefore, was to provide the conditions to achieve the development of each and every child's full potential, one that was encoded within the child from the outset. The growth and its potential was unlimited, as Froebel thought that one could be brought from isolation into wholeness with all life.

He recognized the pattern as follows. The child would be and feel united with its mother and father, and from there with the family, and from there with the community and with nature and from there with all life, as he or she takes a journey toward wholeness. That's the same order I've followed in my new book that is currently getting its first review by the publisher. Family, self, community and human culture.

It is interesting that that journey toward wholeness is never actually complete, and that it can help us to know what we're aiming at as we move forward, even through the worst of times. But then this requires us to make a small leap of faith, that we are here to serve something greater than ourselves

The photo shows some of my inlaid box lids made with the beautiful colors and textures of Arkansas hardwoods.

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

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