I was never known to have an aptitude for or interest in any kind of creative expression which involved my hands (with the exception of typing). My friends are surprised by my newly discovered passion for woodworking, and they’re especially surprised that my knowledge has been self-taught. But it’s less about knowledge and more about three things: 1) Curiosity; 2) Failure; and 3) Experience.
I think I’m a builder by nature. There’s no proof; actually there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. Many friends are flummoxed by my very recent interest in woodworking. Frankly it’s just a different way to express my curiosity and creativity. I’m drawn to puzzling problems and paradoxical possibilities.
But I’m also impatient, prone to cutting corners, and okay with outcomes expressed by “good enough,” or “that’ll do.”
Why do we dream dreams we want, but are incapable of achieving? Because we plunge headlong into a project long before we fully understand the knowledge or practical training required. It’s only when I encounter a surprise obstacle do I understand the depth of my ill-preparedness. The obstacle can’t be avoided; it requires immediate attention (which in turn demands research and reading and materials) which dampens the initial excitement like a toy that breaks after 10 minutes. Setbacks are a normal part of any project, but patience and an understanding of how your project is assembled helps in the long run.
My self-education in woodworking stemmed from a pen stand a carpenter built into an exquisite barrister bookcase. When I enquired if I might procure a pen stand from him, he replied in, what I was certain a foreign language: All you do is put a half-inch core box bit in the collet of your router, adjust your cut depth, make sure your fence is square and both the in feed and out feed halves are aligned, check your speed, adjust the feather boards, and hit the switch! What?!?!? I sat on the internet for two hours deciphering his email. Eventually I located the things he referenced and purchased them absolutely clueless as to what one does with them in order to produce the aforementioned pen stand. I had decided to entertain my curiosity, put up cash betting that I could figure it out, and enjoyed for the first time in 20 years the brazen self-assuredness and absolute impunity (which, I bemoaned was carelessly frittered away by clodhopping, trust-funded youth).
But I’ve been bemoaning wrongly. It’s not that youth squanders audacious and foolhardy behavior, but that I, when the significance of adulthood grabbed me by the throat and squeezed, surrendered my curiosities like possessions to a customs officer, and drifted farther and farther and farther still away from the entertainment that life could be. That adventure was supplanted by decades of slick marketing campaigns which led to the acquisition of goods the commercials told me I’d like. And then, Kaboom! One hell-of-a-manic-episode and like the iconic Chaplin tramp, I was thrown out of the club and into the street.
And feeling just as I did when my older brother told me to get lost when he didn’t want me to tag along with his older pals, I finally understood that life only looks the way it does, because that’s how I look at it.
So today and a year of days before today I’ve promised to listen to my curiosities, promised to try things I haven’t done, and promised to fail as often as I can because failure assuredly makes curiosity laugh.