I personally love woodworking, but in the art form I have recognized that it creates strengths in me, and I believe it does this through Stoic principles. As an Army Vet that has been through some really hard times, the growth of good emotions and principles is great for me in the larger picture.
The first Stoic principle that I love in relation to woodworking is, don’t long for an ideal situation. If you are making cabinets out of mdf, well maybe long for that perfect point. But, say a table or sign. The imperfections in the wood, are truly what makes the creation special. In life as in woodwork, the flaws are what make things special or at least memorable.
Next, live simply. I think this should resonate with EVERY woodworker worth their salt. We all have that ability to grab that laser guided diamond tipped harmonically balanced tool; some of my favorite projects have been done with a chisel. And I am not even very good with it! The simplicity and appreciation you achieve by “taking the hard road” or dumbing down the technology can really put you more in touch with your project and appreciate it more.
Third, maximize positive emotions and minimize negative ones. Man, how do you do that? Sometimes for me it’s recognizing that I am in my shop making something as opposed to being in a cubical, in a suit, making someone else’s dream come true. We all have projects fail, but we have to remember that while that bad emotion can be temporary (another stoic principle) the lesson we learn as woodworkers is generally worth it’s weight in Mahogany. So maybe the next time you break a bit, shrug it off and smile, because you probably just learned something (about heat or vibration).
Lastly, everything is temporary. I like to remember the anxiety I get starting a big project, is temporary. The joy, from a perfect inlay. Is temporary. The splinter under my fingernail too is temporary. The grace that comes from this is that when you start learning not to sweat the small stuff, it all becomes small stuff. And you say, well what about the big stuff that I want to last forever. Two thoughts. One, as a woodworker, you can make that victorious creation you want to keep, over and over again. The clock maker started with one clock. And two, something you make today in wood, very well could last, the rest of your life.
Stoicism is actually an underlying theme in the military that repeats itself over and over in so many things that we did. If you are a Vet and a Woodworker, maybe read up on it and understand that very likely there is a reason you became a woodworker after combat. And dually recognize that the principles that brought you here align very well with the stoics.
Hope y’all have a great day,
Hill Country CNC & Woodworking
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