When the world of making collides with pride it’s time to reflect. Taking pride in the work of another is an equal danger to pride in ourselves and what we achieve too. Should we be prideful in achieving a high standard of workmanship or is it simply that pride is the wrong word to use? These are things I reflect on in my days at the workbench. We talk now in terms of how we should exemplify being proud by expressions we gather by following the examples of more famous role models exemplifying pride in an almost body-locked bracing of a whole frame on bent knees and outstretched arms with a stretched taut face crying out in a mighty self-roar, “Look at me! Look at me!”
I wondered, to a point of stopping, if the goal is a perfected placement of a ball from a bat and a distance way off on the horizon, or a ball squarely placed over a line after a long and arduous run, is the perfect dovetail worthy of the same self-proclamation? After all, isn’t it the same alignment of every muscle and sinew, arm stroke and expressed self-control to effect that perfect cut stroke on stroke on stroke worthy of the same pride-filled expressing? Of course, these athletes have trained hard to win. In many cases, it costs them their bodies and even their minds too.
Well, of course, we don’t do the sports thing because we’re not marked out as Olympians. A dovetail locks two and then four pieces of wood together and we close out the light and walk home tired. A rocking chair nudged on the way to the door rocks gently back and forth at our departing. But then I did chuckle to myself as I imagined how it would be if people in general, equally skilled workers of every kind throughout the world, body-locked on bent and stiffened knees to roar every time they scored in an achievement. I watched the NASA scientists and engineers as they watched their landing of Perseverance on Mars a few days ago. There was something about the unique experience in a special kind of teamwork that created possibility. I have worked in teams where it took many more than just me to make something come together. But then too there is the quiet constraint in a shed at the end of someone’s garden where a man and a woman twixt 16 and 90 are silenced for just a few minutes by what they achieved on their own home turf using just a handful of tools and their own two hands. There was no passing of the ball from first one and then another, no crowd-cheering applause spurring them over the line, yet in the relative harmony of a shed at the bottom of the garden or the quiet corner of the garage something stirred inside a heart that might even make a maker allow a moment of emotion to take its rightful place.
We all express our emotions differently of course. Often, I think the word pride falls so far short of what it truly feels like to compose something of three-dimensional loveliness. The rewards of fulfillment a piece often gives somehow defies words. That well-placed plane stroke and the chisel’s sliced off edge becomes a tiny and lost part in the whole and then loses its individual identity as it gives way in humility to the greater good of that whole. Through this, I understand the collective efforts of the science world where a combined work spans generations and continents and national pride and arrogance seem lost to the greater good despite the politicians reiterating time and again how proud they are that this or that was made here and not there. Politicians and politics, some, not all, seem somehow incapable of the quiet gratitude of participating in something so much bigger than self. They might bully and boast, brag and browbeat. Ultimately their bruising and cuttings disappear on the outside surface, but inside there remains the deeper issue of reality because of course people have to live with the outcome of insensitivity at lofty heights. But down there, down the uneven path between shrubs and grass verges leading to a quiet corner stands a small and inconspicuous shed. Inside, whenever possible in a busy life, a man, a woman, a child makes. In relative isolation, they each join their wooden pieces and join others around the world to be creative. A single piece of wood gets reduced to fit inside another of the greater whole and peace manages to reign in the humility of making.