Monday, February 10, 2014

Superfluous Necessity

The oldest stone-tipped weapons date back more than 250,000 years.  Current understanding is that modern humans emerged around 200,000 years ago.  That is, we made tools before we were modern humans.  We've likely been making them ever since.

The above photo is from this National Geographic article.

As we step into the era of digital printers --where instead of making a wrench you can print a wrench-- it's reasonable to ask, will we ever need to use our hands to make anything again?  And if we won't need to, should we?  We can accomplish so much more collectively, with incredible efficiency, than we ever could individually.  Not only do most of us no longer need to know how to make and use tools, we don't have to cultivate crops, or sing, or tell great stories.  There are others who can do that for us, and far better than we could possibly hope to do ourselves. 

As modern individuals, we need only to acquire (work), consume and propagate.  This is a tremendous accomplishment but it invites the other parts of our nature to atrophy.  To stay human we need to use those parts of ourselves that necessity no longer requires, but that our nature requires.  We do have to sing and dance and draw, make music, tell stories, garden, play sports.  We need to be clever. And we need to make and use tools, with our hands.

When we think about the coming resurgence of woodworking education, it needs to include this perspective.  Yes, for some students, learning woodworking will be practical and may lead to a career.  But for the other 99 %, it will be like playing a musical instrument --superfluous, but a necessity.

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