A few years back, I realised the path I was on was neither for me nor leading me anywhere worthwhile. Being practically minded I decided to retrain in alternative medicine and spent the second year trying to make sense of Chinese Medicine. Unfortunately, I did not complete the course, but I learnt so much from the Chinese way of thinking that it was worth it nonetheless.
One thing however never ceased to amaze me. How could people derive an
entire system of medicine based on forces that cannot be seen, and whose influences are so subtle? Amazing. The same sense of amazement overtook me while visiting the Belleek Pottery factory. The clay is a finely balanced composite of elements sourced from all over the world. Before being fired, at the right temperature, it is incredibly brittle. Who came up with this? The theory of trial and error leaves me cold but I do not have an alternative explanation.
The amazement is equally matched by a great sense of regret. Apparently, nowadays, some craft schools teach the art of design but not the practical skill of making. Perplexing! Who will carry the flame?
But in talking about my own experience, the long historical chain of human ingenuity stopped at my parents’ generation. I am of the 1972 vintage. By the way, apparently, that year, you had to be a heady wine if you wanted to age gracefully. Emmmm…
Anyway, at that time, the “emancipation” of women was in full swing and the modern woman was free from the sink, mending, cooking and washing all day. Having a career was then a real possibility. Many of the women who had missed the boat, and could merely dream of an office job, maybe put their own dreams on the shoulders of their daughters. Practical home-making skills were passe, a definite sign of lack of ambition, if not backwardness (the smart robot and powdered food were born, remember?).
So it is only when I had my first child that I suddenly copped-on that your food is your health, that health is nurtured rather than coerced with pills and that DIY skills are empowering. Worse again, when expecting my eldest, I bought an amazingly cute pair of booties for her, never realising they were in fact dolls shoes. She was born particularly small, yet there was still no hope for the booties to fit. No way, not a chance. I was totally clueless about all that matters in life.
I recently watched a TED video, entitled “Craftsmanship begins at home”, where a gentleman shared his journey in making blue grass violins. There is nothing heady, but he emphasises how the little things, similar to good habits, shape good craftmanship. Give yourself time and if you make a mistake, do not do it again. It is not rocket science.
By rushing from A to Z, we no longer take the time. Resilience is undermined by instant gratification. Know-how is redundant in the face of opinion. Skill development is cheapened by technology and ready made solutions. I wonder whether the line of human ingenuity has been further weakened.
For me, feminism dis-empowered me as a mother. I started on a very child centered, expert- guided, emotionally absorbing and ultimately expensive form of parenting. To move away from this unsatisfactory state of affairs, I had to unlearn the faff and learn quickly about the real stuff. Very uncomfortable! Today, after a drastic life review and simplification, the kids are pretty much free range, much more inquisitive and I think more confident. They are also quite crafty. And so I agree with this gentleman, that craftmanship begins at home. It is a mindset above and beyond a skill. To illustrate this, apparently, the Japanese technique of marbled paper is called Sumiganashi, and the most important skills is a perfectly still mind! To achieve this, you need to have your house in order…
So we now have nearly traveled full circle. To complete the journey, I feel it is necessary to put your mind at ease. My first born is very much still kicking 18 years later, on the whole seemingly unscathed.
And her shoes fit her.
(But then, at this age, she does her own shopping, nothing to do with me…)
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