The End

--A Philosophical Digression--

"The mark of man is the refinement of the hand in action..."
...Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man

On Creativity
If you have taken the journey through this home page to this point, you have shared a great part of the focus and self-expression of the past five years of my life. All of us have a particular note to sing, some means to let the creative Voice of the Universe resonate through our beings and find expression on this earthly plane. I have been blessed with the grace to find an outlet for my creativity through this ancient craft of ornamental turning. To allow oneself to be, in a paraphrase of the words of St. Francis, an instrument of a higher Will is my highest aspiration. That which resonates in the hearts of humanity as beauty on this Planet Earth is but a small vestige of the Beauty of the larger Creation of which we are all integral parts. In truth, there is no separation between any of us and any of the Universe in which we participate. So I feel that all and everything is but striving to regain an essestial Oneness that we feel we have lost. We are all thirsty to drink of that greater Beauty that seems out of reach, but ironically, is quietly waiting inside all the time we are searching elsewhere. Then the challenge becomes to become quiet enough to hear that voice within, and then to give it its expression. So in my work, I have found that the real challenge is not in making something well but to "get out of the way" enough to let it happen. And so the goal is not to have a goal, but to "be there" with the process of creation. And then if the work at hand comes out well, one may stand back and murmur a quiet prayer of gratitude for being able to be an instrument in this symphony of creation we call life.

On the Craft of Human Hands
To judge this work as machine-work, and therefore deficient to 'the craft of human hands' is to create a sense of separation from ourselves and our creation based on arbitrary preconditions. Since all creation follows thought, and all thought is but a reflection of the whole, there is no aspect of creative expression that is higher or lower than any other. We all just have different notes to sing. The refinement of the hand in action manifests just as palpably in a sculptor's carving as in a small ornamental turning. The machine is but an extension of that hand, guided by the same coordination of hand and eye and desire to unlock the form of the inner beauty in the rough blank. An ornamental turning well done, held up and turned in the light, sparkles with a dynamism and vitality that is jewel-like. The ornamental turner is driven by the same desire "to get it right" as a craftsman cutting diamonds or a painter applying brush strokes to achieve an effect. Potters may well be one of the few creators of objects who actually use their hands as tools. All the rest of us, whether with a chisel or adze, a paint brush, or an ornamental turning lathe, utilize an intermediary between our thought and its manifestation other than our hand. So the distinction between 'hand-crafted' and 'machine-made' becomes irrelevant in my mind. What is critical is the intent behind the effort produced. Bad work can be done by hand and good work by machine, and vice versa. What I would hope for as the most enlightened view is that the distinction between 'art' and 'craft', 'hand-made' and 'machine-made' would be replaced by an appreciation that the soul-expression behind every one of us is exactly the same.

On Spirituality, Art and Craft
Many times I have witnessed discussions about the merits of art vs. craft. Sometimes heated arguments ensue over whether woodturning or woodwork in general can be art or if it is a craft, or about whether aesthetic issues or good technique should be more important. A dictionary defines art as "an aesthetically pleasing and meaningful arrangement of elements, as words, sounds, colors, shapes, etc." Aesthetics is defined as "of or relating to the beauty in art, nature, etc." Craft is defined as "skill or profiency, especially in hand work." Why is it necessary to construct boundaries around different areas of human endeavour and pigeon-hole them with a name that excludes other influences? Perhaps we have done this to pare this complex world down to a size we can deal with, to compartmentalize our existence. Art is not just something to hang on a wall, and craft is not just the making of utilitarian ware. What true craftsman does not try to achieve "an aesthetically pleasing and meaningful arrangement of elements" in his work? I would submit that it all is the same--"the refinement of the hand in action."

As a woodworker, there is no pretense in being termed an artist on the one hand and, conversely, some sort of more inherent honesty and humility in being termed a craftsman on the other. The desire to "get it right" is actually a spiritual activity, one that transcends all human-made distinctions. Just to do it as well as you possibly can denotes an undertaking that is spiritual, in the sense of the definition of spirituality that I think is most apt, which is, "marked or characterized by the highest qualities of the human mind." And so any activity of humankind, preconditioned upon the premise of approaching the task "with the highest qualities of the human mind," is a spiritual undertaking, and the resultant effort is art. It requires the disciplines of a craft to achieve this goal. Some 'art' has a profound nature and all who recognize it feel a universal truth expressed; some does not achieve such a lofty reception and is much less inspired and mundane. But just as spirituality is not just something that happens in a designated place of worship, but is reflected in all human activity, so art is not just the realm of the professional artist. My concept of a Brave New World is one in which the politician, economist, scientist, teacher, plumber, carpenter, laborer, as well as the priest, is recognized as a spiritual being involved in a spiritual undertaking, and they are guided in their work by "the highest qualities of the mind." At one time it was a common expression to use a statement such as "the art of statesmanship," for example. When we are all appreciated as artists for the creation of our lives on a daily basis "characterized by the highest qualities of the human mind," when the beautiful expression of human creativity on all levels is recognized as art, then the sense of separation from each other and of one endeavour from another may finally be laid to rest. Perhaps then the lyrics of a song by Michael Murphy will no longer strike such a poignant chord in the human soul as they seem to do now:
None go near it,
All men fear it,
More than night.

A Blessing
Thank you for your indulgence in allowing me to share some of my thoughts and ornamental turning with you. The Path leads on, and

I honor the place within you
where the universe resides;
I honor the place within you
of love, of light, of truth, of peace;
I honor the place within you
where, if you are in that place in you, and
I am in that place in me;
There is only one of us.

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Last revised February 4, 1996.