A part of the whole

A difference I see in a man’s life when he works with his apprentice is this: In moulding and shaping the wood, cutting away the waste and forming the parts to interlock with one another, each part becomes known by characteristic features. Perhaps a knot or knotted area, some reverse grain, straight grain, open pores and so on. Some parts are very distinctive, almost bold, while others shrink back unnoticed at first but then noticed because of this very unique strength. Working with wood and other materials like this draws a man into a relationship with his materials and the material world in which he lives and works. Relating to the natural assumes responsibility and discovering a man’s place in the whole is important. It’s this that we call composition. Every man and woman must at some point recognise that though they compose, they are composed.



As a man works with the parts he makes from wood, lifts them from the bench, twists and turns them to eye, flips them end for end and traces his fingertips along their rough and ready surfaces, his awareness increases and stimulated by this awareness he makes minute minute-by-minute decisions that then determine the position of each in the whole. These decisions gradually, by the eye and touch of the craftsman alone, become final, they cannot any longer be reversed or interchanged. He must, then, make every decision aware of this one thing. This, for me, is true critical thinking.

So it is with a man in life. He, by the circumstances of life, is being shaped and moulded to take his part in the whole. He is only a part and can never be complete without relating to others. I was once mentored in my craft and today I am still mentored by those who taught and trained me as I recall their conversations and instructions. My choices, circumstances and my relationship to others past, present and future guide me and help me. I find on the anvil of adversity character is formed. People live lives cushioned constantly from adverse conditions. Facing adversity, stringy grain, knots, awkwardness head on is key to forming character.

When the wooden frames and panels are complete and united, fitly framed together to form the whole, I look at the parts I fitted and worked with and remember the difficulties, but not with bitterness and anger, frustration and such but with affection. I find all too often, as I work through the difficulties, that it’s this that I was unconsciously looking for; a place to place my affection. A deposit if you will into the life of another whereby that part would find its place in the whole. It’s finding a place in serving in the whole that true meaning is found. But it is in a sense a hidden mystery, to find this affection I mean, and realise that you too were moulded and shaped by it and so you pass on the lived mystery to those following. It’s a lovely thing really. Until you see how illusive this thing called fitly framed is, you never truly value it. Until you see how fragile the relationships are, you never fully appreciate them.

I find it a strange thing that people have need of affection, yet they seldom realise that they too have affection that they must pass on to others. Such is the gift of life.

My friend John leaves today on a train from Bangor. He worked through adversity and found affection. His own. He gave it back in many ways to me and to my family.