Participating in the Real

Posted on January 25, 2012 by


I believe strongly that humans were created with the creative urge.  Insofar as we were created in God’s image, we were created to be mini-creators.  Craftsmanship, art, music, prose, gardens… these all come from the same well in the soul.

Humans in the West are largely stopped from creating things which are meaningful.   Our lives don’t revolve around the creation of … well, anything.  We market, we manage, we organize, we consume.   We argue about our consumption as if our consumption is important, when any child can tell you that it’s what you produce that reveals the real you.   God is revealed in His creation.  Man is revealed in his.

I think this stalled drive warps us.  I was reading this article today:  http://wearinghistoryblog.com/2012/01/random-thoughts-on-the-necessity-of-handcrafts/ and was struck by the “necessity” of handcrafts.  We are meant to make things, to create.  Our most addictive games incorporate creativity, incorporate that need.

Modern life moves us away from handcraft, and from the necessity of being good at handcraft.  My husband goes to work for long hours.. then when he gets home, if he’s energetic enough, he goes to his gun-desk to work on gunsmithing.  I spend time at my sewing machine.  We call these “hobbies” now – because skill at them is no longer necessary to our lives.  If my husband did not know how to fix his guns, did not know how to build things, he could easily pay someone else to do those things.  So we call what he does a “hobby”.  I could pay for my clothes from the mall.  No one (except me) cares whether I sewed my skirt or bought it… only that it covers me and isn’t hideous.

I believe that one of the ways to become more traditional and to value the work of others is to do real work with our own hands.

It’s interesting… how work-with-the-hands is valued and supported by society only if it is being done FOR play… if you do the same work to support your family, you suddenly become “not-like-us” and lower class.   And then we sit and watch the same people on the Discovery channel, because our inner selves understand the value and feel the hunger to create, while our outer selves only value disposable income and casual Friday.

Granted, good work takes time and training and pains.  To have a beautiful vase of flowers on my table, first my table should really be clean!  To make a dress that hangs well, first I have to spend time making sure I’m cutting the fabric on grain.  To grow happy healthy vegetables (at least in MY soil) first you have to spend some serious time with a shovel.    The end result of what you create on your own tells a story about you – a story about how willing you are to take pains, a story about how you feel about color or sound or eggplant, a story about whether you like to play it safe or go into new territory – and end result reveals all of it.  Poorly cut fabric?  You can’t go back!    Forget to double-dig?  Wow, those are some puny tomato plants… All of “self” is shown.  Inexperience, impatience, the whole nine.  It’s the very antithesis of a credit card society – if you make it from scratch, you won’t be good in a day.

If we are exposed in our work, could it be that we were created to do just that?  That much of the debate on works vs. faith is of less value to those who actually go out and *work*?  Could it be that the hunger to be known that expresses itself as shouting out consumption patterns or plunging necklines is the hunger to be known in one’s work that has been warped by fear of being known in our weaknesses as well as our aspirations?  What have we lost, in losing the skill with our hands?

And what can we regain, by taking back reality, and suffering the pains of failure as well as the pleasure of success?