Blood, Sweat and Years August 13, 2015 12:21 42 Comments
When I started making knives I was 28 years old. I had a new baby girl, a new little house...life was simple. I bought some tools and set up a little shop in my 2-car garage. Blink my eyes and Boom, my little girl is six-feet tall, I have another son and daughter, I don't work in that little garage anymore , I don't live in that house anymore. Heck, I don't live in that time zone anymore! I have a new home, new friends, and a very different life than I did when I started. Where did I spend all that time?
I spent a lot of that time in a shop full of tools....alone. Making knives. What started as a hobby became a business and my love for the craft survived the transition. For that I am grateful.
But what have I done with sixteen years of my life? These knives I make are the love-child of art and tool. They cut a few apples, some brush, but many never see the light of day. They sit quietly behind glass in a collection, occasionally admired and used even less. And working here by myself, I ask the question: Am I spending my life doing something that matters...in light of eternity? Did I span the entire decade of my 30's plus a few years on either end making things nobody needs? Have I invested the capital of my life into objects which will, given enough time, return to rust? This question is especially relevant sitting in the E.R. getting a piece of steel dug out of my eye, or wrapping a giant burn on my leg. What the heck am I doing here?
That I took the road less traveled is clear. Maybe there's a reason there's no traffic here.
Held alongside the yardstick of eternity, what on earth actually measures up? Perhaps like my grandfather I should have been a surgeon, who was also a foreign aid worker, who was also a missionary, who was also a bible teacher. For 25 years, he ran a hospital in a small village in Africa. Now that's seems like eternal work!. But today the hospital is gone, the missionaries are gone, the people temporarily healed are now mostly dead anyway; the inevitable delayed only for a time. And when a life like that can be accounted as a waste by my yardstick of eternal value, maybe the problem is in me.
This is the thing that has delivered me – not once – but over and over as I re-measure myself. In those moments when life slows down enough and I ask, In light of eternity, does my work matter? This is the answer I hear.
Jesus of Nazareth, (whether you see him as the Son of God or merely the most influential human being ever), spent three years doing the work he is known for; preaching, healing, all of it. Three years. And the rest of it? From coming of age at thirteen in until age thirty he was...what? A carpenter. He spent seventeen years building chairs and hanging doors.
The historical accounts of his life are silent about this part of his life, so my reflections are purely conjecture. I'm not trying to convince the world, nor am I trying to convince you. My private musings are for my benefit alone. I see the accounts of the public life of the man Jesus, and I see the precision of his words, the force of his deeds, and the permanence of his life, and I ask myself, What kind of carpenter would this man have been? The public life of this man has held the attention of the world for 2000 years, and yet I am moved by reflecting on his private life. I cannot imagine that a man who lived with such passion and such wisdom could have built a poor chair.
Would hands that allowed themselves to be nailed to a cross have sacrificed any less in the cause of his labor? Can I imagine him simply biding his time all those years as a carpenter just waiting for the important ministry years to arrive? Would he have hidden mistakes with paint to save a shekel? Would he have balked at the because it was beneath him? That picture seems totally at odds with the values he preached that went on to transform the culture of the planet ever since.
So you see, I believe he made a fine chair: the best materials, no shortcuts, no lemons.
However, they were merely chairs. No matter how strong, how well built, how creative or how ornate, they all eventually fall apart. They crumbled and were probably burned for heat. Nothing more. The doors he hung were in time, un-hung. He devoted himself to learning a craft and applying it six days a week for seventeen years knowing all the time that In light of eternity it would all amount to sawdust. Why?
The one story of his childhood tells us of a twelve-year-old boy at the Temple talking to the religious authorities of his day who were amazed at his understanding. People love a child prodigy. Why not move on to the important stuff right then. If his life had a fixed limit of thirty-three years, why not spend every second possible doing the things for which Eternity remembers him? Surely there is more eternal weight in healing the blind and feeding the mouths and souls of the masses than in working in a shop full of tools. Alone.
And yet this is where he stayed until age thirty. He and his father with their tools, and some really well-made chairs and doors...why? And this, I believe, is the answer. Because in light of eternity, it does matter. The chairs and the doors...and maybe even the knives. They matter. Or rather the making of them matters. Because the millstone of eternity will certainly pulverize all the chairs and doors and knives back into atoms at some point, but the making of those things... Ah, now that is quite a different matter. What if the effort put into the things I make exists as something apart. The effort, offered back to God as thanks for the life and breath given me slides between those millstones and passes unscathed to the other side. What if the time spent devoting my life to the work of just making these knives carries with it the possibility of pleasing God. What if the physical products of my work serve their purpose in this time and though doomed to eventual destruction, the work itself - the attitude, the passion, the blood, sweat and years are themselves eternal?
In a first-century letter, one of Jesus' most passionate followers wrote, Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands. Maybe there is value, in light of eternity, to the work I do. Maybe it is enough to bleed and sweat and spend the best years of my life right where I am. Maybe like the man from Nazareth, I am right where I need to be.
Why I Write April 6, 2015 10:36 5 Comments
I have this blog on the new website, because I've decided to write more this year. I guess it's partly because I think have something to say – the curse of all bloggers. The allusions at my wit and wisdom are junk food for my ego. I'd be dishonest if I said that wasn't at least part of my desire to write. I hope that need dies slowly as I the remaining black hair turns gray.
The other reason I want to write, the bigger reason in some ways, is that writing helps me find myself in all the noise. In the forest of my mind, there are so many trees, so many leaves and birds and bushes that I don't have a clear path to walk. I need to work, to perform, to get things done by being productive and efficient. I also want to sit and do nothing. I want to hide from responsibility, and escape from the system. I want to rebel against the life I know I should live. I want to run and explore and see the world, meet and help people, be significant in my actions so that I do good things that live beyond me. I also just don't care. I want to take all my money and spend it on me – on something meaningless. I want to encourage and I want to pout. I want to rescue and I want to be rescued.
The contradictions that live in me are true and therefore are worthy of ink, and though not native they are now part of the landscape. But at any one point, there is something or at least a critical combination of specific somethings that is foremost right now. And it is hard to just watch the swirling leaves with my eyes, and actually see what matters. Writing forces me away from unlimited creativity. It pigeon-holes me into a place where I am forced to obey the rules. I can only hit one key at a time, and each word must work with the ones nearby to form cohesive thoughts. Each sentence must go somewhere related to the ones before and after. I cannot – I may not wander much in my thoughts. In fact, as I travel through the dense woods of my mind, I may not find the perfect path by writing, but if I will allow sufficient space to reach a way-point, the linear rules of writing mean that I will at least find someplace. It means that for a short space of time, I force myself to end up at one tree, maybe one leaf. And without having to admit that this tree or this one leaf is all-important or that all the others are any less, I can make space to reflect on one path and one thing to the exclusion of the others. And what I have found is that when finished, that one path leading to that one leaf remains in my memory. Often it remains as a special journey – a journey I can relive on the re-reading I necessary.
And because of how my mind is wired, that is a very useful thing. To this day I still reflect on some large lessons that I learned not because I experienced them as such, but because I wrote about them. And once written, I was able to see the path I took in a way that I could not before I wrote about it. I am not so much writing about experiences that I have already had, but I am experiencing things that I have missed as I traveled. It's like taking a vacation and going through the photos after I get home. I certainly saw all the things in the pictures I took, but the beauty or the oddness or the importance of it didn't strike me at the time, and only through the lens of my memory can I relive what I should have see on the first run through.
I'd like to think that if I do this enough, I will get better at seeing things along the path. I guess I hope to write to develop my need for writing, and at the same time, make the need for writing more irrelevant as I go. If I can use the exercise of putting down thoughts and keeping my mind on a leash as I write, maybe the muscles it develops will also provide insight in the real world.
No longer in the 1990's February 8, 2015 14:30 1 Comment
Wanting to take advantage of that newfangled inter-web-net, in 2002 I paid a college student to build my first website. Being what college students are, a year later I had to take over the work myself, which seems perfectly logical since I new nothing about computers and didn't care to learn. You know, if you want run a small business, you will eventually find out what you stink at. That's the time to hire somebody else. Unless you're me. So I spent all these years doing something for which I had no business doing - doing as it were, the thing that I actually depended on for business! The software which was amazing tech in 1998, got so time consuming that I practically stopped updating the site altogether. I even started watching youtube videos on how to write html code at night on the couch. Time for a change? Yeah, I agree.
So a few months ago I began working in earnest toward a totally new website. The term user-friendly has been over-usered for sure, but that's exactly what I needed - for me and for you. I need a website that is easier for you, my friends and customers, to view my knives on the devices you use, and easier for me to keep it that way. Hopefully all this change ends with me being able to do more of what I actually do best.
There will be a lot more moving parts than the old site, and as with anything new there are bound to be things you love, things you hate, and things that I just plain screwed up. Please look around and let me know what you think, and where you'd like to see improvement. I also have other updates and videos that are slated for the next couple months, so there's more to come for sure.
The blog section will be something I will try to take advantage of as well. My knives are a very personal expression of who I am, and as such the blog will focus less on the knives and more on yours truly. Like you, I have particular strengths and weaknesses and those influence my work ethic, my processes, my passions and my shortcomings. In the blog, I will let you see (avert your eyes if you wish) a deeper picture of who I am and why I do what I do.
More to come....