Sunday, March 20, 2011

Words of Wisdom

Anyone who's been reading my 'life in general' posts will know that the past year or more has been characterized by a lot of growth and introspection on my part.

Many of the woodworkers I know have gone through a wood collecting phase. And I've heard a lot of stories about 'that one special piece of wood.' Maybe it's a huge slab of something really beautiful, or maybe it's a square foot of walnut crotch, containing the cross section of an actual walnut that was absorbed into the tree. And the typical reactions run along a similar strain... 'That one piece of wood is really, really awesome. But I don't want to ruin it, so I'm going to put it away until I figure out that one perfect project that will really show it off to perfection.'

I think what I started to realize last fall, and wasn't able to put into words, is that I was feeling the same way about my life. I had training, tools, wood, shop space, a small but growing portfolio, an honest to god Emmert vise under the bench, (but not mounted, don't wanna mess that up, either) people that believe in me... I really don't want to mess any of it up, so I'd better just shelve the whole thing until I figure out just how I'm going to make something out of it.

I finally managed to find a word that adequately describes the sensation:


I tend to believe that all growth happens against resistance. But it's a delicate balance to strike: massive resistance can lead to massive growth... or massive failure. And that's a scary thing to sidle up to. 

I posted a list recently of books that have really helped me learn things that have helped me to become a better woodworker. I left one out, and it's one that I consult almost every day that I'm in the shop: The Little Zen Companion. I can open that little book to any random page, and read something worth thinking about. One page stood out. It describes the three things that are required for learning, or growing... or for working on those special pieces of wood.

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