Journal entry Thursday 8th June 2017
Nope! Not political choices, electing to do what you feel called to do with your life.
I preach my own words to myself most days, “It’s not what you make but how!” I could write a book on this sentence alone. Perhaps no one would read it. I’m not a journalist, a novelist or a clever writer, I’m a furniture maker, woodworker and woodturner. In one way or another I spend my days working with wood. My love for my craft has buoyed me up through the difficult passages I’ve encountered in life and it’s been the complex projects, the ones that challenged me the most, that made a man that struggles through non-woodworking issues to as satisfying a conclusion as possible.
I first stepped off the conveyor belt some three decades or so ago and it was then that I started to understand more about the feelings I had surrounding issues I felt were important to me. Often things you disagree with lead you to a point where self examination results in you standing on a conviction. It’s an inner emotion that triggers mechanisms that enable you to respond differently to issues more important to you than to others until you begin to express yours. It’s a point where you start to see the things we do as more emotive and it’s this that caused me to reflect on whether I worked because it was a calling on my life or simply something by which I made money with. It’s funny that people who work wood at weekends might well have done well enough in woodworking to make a good living from doing it as a full time job but either never had even the opportunity to or the inkling to make that basic decision as an alternative reality. As a parent and a teacher I became aware that parents and teachers generally steer their children through the same channels they went through to become working adults. In other words, any hint of something being a calling never arrived or was considered. Such common programming has indeed become the norm. Education to higher levels first and then hope what you learned opens the doors to that ‘good (well paying, secure) job’. In my view most people seem programmed to this being the only way, whereas I think it better to individualise education based on an individual call. Higher education rarely seems to take into consideration a person’s calling and therefore is never customised to that end because universities and colleges, teachers and educators can in no way handle that.
In my work life working for bosses I was mostly unfortunate. All had prejudices, a Scottish or Welsh nationalist who disliked Brits, others with uncontrollable anger issues. Passive and aggressive bosses and such like that. But then there in the mix would be a bright star of a man who had a way of distilling everything down to the most common denominator. “Remember, when you go before the boss, we all use the same toilet.” This leveller was an important lesson in my formative years. Unfortunately I didn’t learn the lesson about how you make what you make being important until I was much older. Perhaps I couldn’t until I learned what work was not meant to be before I could compare it to what it then could become to me.
Mostly I see my working as a work of service to others. Yes, I know, that’s perhaps not something people feel positive about these days, but I like it. Serving doesn’t come naturally in most of our western culture today but I am not talking of servanthood so much as using my skills for the common good of all. We like to be somewhat known as independent beings. You know, one of those self-styled, self-made rugged individualists? Someone to be admired. But when we live in a culture where we always seem more deserving, we rarely see ourselves as having something to offer from a standpoint of sharing. It is more a question of making things for rich or influential individuals rather than people simply making for the people we might more be equal to and care about, which is often a step toward discovering people who become supportive as returning customers.
The full phrase says, ‘It’s not what you make but how you make that determines the outcome.’ I would also add, ‘Because how you make what you make requires forethought and care if you are to put forth your best work.’ I might also add that arriving at a point where a paradigm shift can alter our perspective to serve others means dismantling many of the most powerful influences that informed us wrongly. Things like in school when teachers (and parents) told us the fib, “You can be anything you want to be.” Whereas I do agree with aspirational motivation, it’s important to be real; especially with our influencing.
When I’m working on making my pieces, working alone mostly but also those close to me and my work, I become conscious of who I am. Every one I ever made for got my best work once I got off the conveyor belt. I’ve made fine pieces all my life and at points made 8 caskets for burial. They take a week to make working about 10 hours each day. When you love people you do these things. Every saw and plane stroke on the casket reflects an off-the-conveyor-belt life, even when the work you do is buried a few hours later.