Friday, March 7, 2008

Yesterday Courtney broke a nail, just a small tip, but it was something that had to be announced to draw the sympathy and attention of the class. The amount of special protection nails must receive as young women engage in woodworking (or anything else)is amazing to me.

This may go back to Socrates and before. Men and women of the upper classes were not to engage in the real work and creative efforts of the lower class. Their spirits were to soar unencumbered by fleshly form as they indulged in mastery of their slaves. Physical form was for adornment and sensation, nothing more. Dirt on the skin, grease under a nail, were evidence of betrayal of class values

The hands themselves are a source of status recognition. Beautiful long nails that have been colored and tended so carefully are a statement of idleness and indulgence being encouraged over other human values of creativity, industry and effort.

Our hands are much more an expression of personal identity than our faces. Our faces are only apparent to us when we look in mirrors and reflections, but our hands are always there when we pause from the internal chatter and look down.

In action and service the hands disappear as we engage in skilled manipulation of material. The man at the lathe skillfully shaping wood takes no notice of his hands. The tool and the hands holding it in well-practiced form, become an extension of his intellect as his consciousness engages directly in material and the creation of form.

Let’s consider Zen for a moment. The hands are the primary method of human engagement with essential reality. Extract the hands from their explorations of material and form, withdraw them from their essential role as the creative extension of intellect, force them to become mere expressions of idle reflection and adornment. What do you get? Is it the sound of one hand clapping idly in space and time with no noise and no noticeable effect? Let’s consider putting our hands together and see what we can do with two… Or how about you and I with four?

When Courtney broke a nail, I asked, “Is there blood, do you need a band-aid?” When Peggy broke a nail, I showed her how to fix it with sandpaper. You can see that in some things my heart is hard. But I have a soft spot for kids getting over the things that keep them idle and prevent the unfolding of creative self. I have a soft spot for broken nails, bent ones too. Let’s get more kids working with wood.

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