Saturday, October 13, 2007

Otto Salomon, Swedish educator and the international proponent of Educational Sloyd said that while the value of the carpenter's work is in the usefulness of the object, the value of the child's work is in the child.

Many years ago, I was a member of a meditation group, the purpose of which was to lift the understanding of its members to a broader, higher, and more encompassing perspective. The leader of that group offered an exercise in which the students were to look at an orange, first in contemplation of its form, its spherical shape, then in contemplation of its qualities as expressed by surface texture and color, and then move to the question, "who thought it up?"

We are surrounded in our lives by objects, either natural or man-made, and in naming them we feel a sense of relationship and mastery, and yet, the story told by the most simple object is well beyond the human range of perfect understanding. What we might feel as relationship and mastery don't come close to an understanding of complex reality.

The students at Clear Spring School can hardly wait to take home the objects they make in wood shop. "Can I take this home today?" they ask. There is so much excitement in holding and sharing with others the objects we have made. I know, because I see it every day and I feel the same things myself, about my own work.

It is a true challenge in this day and age to look up from our idle naming of things to see their intrinsic qualities, and much harder still to comprehend the incredible stories those objects tell. The best stories are those human ones, of obstacles overcome, of challenge, learning, discovery, and growth. The students at Clear Spring and their parents know that the objects they bring home are much more than just simple things.

Years ago, I sat with the meditation group during the exercise with the orange. A woman gasped audibly at step 3. The orange, she said, "disappeared for a moment in a blaze of light." Perhaps there is more to things than meets the eye. Perhaps there are things that meet the heart as well. There are doors of perception that when closed narrow our vision to the naming of things. Those doors open, reveal wonder, mystery and intense inexplicably profound relationship. And we get to choose.

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