This past Friday it seemed, immersed in a unique silence of sorts that slowly descended on the workshop, men and women gathered around my workbench. My tools were sharp and ready to task and I watched the gathering shuffle onto their stools to find comfortable positions. To describe this sense of remarkable quiet would be quite impossible but remarkable it was and always is because mixed with the silence the visceral absorption of all things paralleling that same remarkable phenomenon usually ascribed childhood learning. To say people revered the ambience of quiet is not too much. Anticipation can work in many ways ranging from the absolute of silence to a sort of reverie in its truest sense of feeling true rejoicing. In their inner senses, the unseen realms of gut and heart, I and they felt protective of what was there as one might seeing a deer by the water’s edge or listening to a nightingale or a distant cuckoo. You don’t altogether want to disturb the sanctity yet you almost want to touch its untouchableness. At least I felt that way as silence seems always to be most appropriate at times like this.
It is an unusual reality that when a group of people want to be there with a common cause and it is indeed their choosing there is indeed nothing to negate the energy emanating from the crowd. This is why I use the word remarkable. We should indeed speak of remarkable things in the ordinariness of day to day because shared experience can be had in words too. When everyone leaves their smart phones alone for two full days a remarkable phenomenon happens. They were silenced to the point that I saw no one in the two days reach for a device anywhere except at the very end when they took a selfie or two with me. Quietness has become a phenomenon to the point that such scarcity of silence actually reverberates into its surroundings as a counterculture we seldom meet.
In a world where you never walk or sit anywhere for more than a minute or two without lifting your phone from your pocket or purse or see a dozen people walking blindly into one another whilst staring at this tablet of plastic and glass, we really achieved something. A key influence that silenced the phones and demanding rings was the absolute absence of boredom. Two days were crammed with woodworking’s immersive qualities and the ability to leave alternative stimuli from Google outside. We shared experience and learned. New priorities replaced programming and programs and this prioritising united with willingness to establish a different authority. He, she pays absolute attention and disallows any intrusion though a router or sander tries from elsewhere.
Paying for the class has nothing to do with paying attention. I don’t ask the class to pay attention because their attention is undivided. The listen and absorb because they want to pay close and absolute attention so as not to lose anything that’s said. The obvious result is that their total interest leads to a gain they can apply to experience in the doing of what’s been spoken.
So for two days amidst mallet blows and saw strokes, the tap tapping of joints into union and then the soft sound of a broom and a metal dustpan closing each day I found myself rejoicing that at the end of another year’s classes we had no injuries and many silent smiles from many people launched into a woodworking phenomenon that’s silently unstoppable.