Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Do it Yourself


As a guitarist, I am supposed to have a slightly better than average degree of manual dexterity, thus small home improvements should give little cause for concern. After all, the only thing I need is a decent set of tools and the right materials and I ought to be able to turn my hand to virtually any small task as required. Ah. Some home improvers have internal wizardry beyond my understanding. Measurement is a careless art, the more-or-less approach beloved of electrical engineers allows them to demolish walls, create windows and reconstruct vast tracts of external masonry with the same espi├Ęglerie and joie de vivre as drilling a small hole. By contrast, my own frontal lobe, pathways gruellingly mapped by years of thinking like a physicist - I wouldn't really claim to actually BE one but I know in principle how it is done- looks for rules, protocols, procedures and method. Order is everything, clean tools laid out in their order of use and materials meticulously cut to size. I have no problem developing the rule book; actually employing the rules is an entirely different matter. Also, gnawing relentlessly in the shadows, is the fearful notion that it will ALL GO HORRIBLY WRONG.
Plumbing is particularly susceptible to the principle that once a small pipe has been unscrewed, with the best will in the world the entire upper floor is engulfed in water, the floor is destroyed beyond repair and the place is knee deep in a torrent of inexplicable ferocity. By contrast, carpentry looks deceptively straightforward. I know about Pythagoras and can draw a right angle with a pencil and a set of compasses. Applying such elementary notions to the replacement of a drawer slider, however, turns out to be fraught with mismeasurement, transcription error (did I mean 32.5cm or 35.2?) and the fact that although my pencil lines ares rigorously rectilinear, the saw won't follow the graphite track so carefully created for it. Spectators watch silently. Their unspoken question 'does he know what he is doing?' hovers like a waiting bird of prey. Closing the drawer is fine. Getting it open again turns out to be the hard part. Especially as the handles have been removed so the front side can be cleaned, sanded and waxed.
For most of us, getting it more or less right is the best we're ever going to be able to manage and even the finest craftsmen are rarely completely satisfied with the quality of their work. We, as architects of our own personality, know the hidden flaws there as well. We know which parts have had to be repaired with filler and hope they don't show too much. Yet, it is here where we have to either work to improve or simply learn to be satisfied. Knowing ourselves carries with it both power and conflict and in much the same way as my attempts to repair a three hundred year old piece of furniture, ravaged by decay and misuse, it is important to discern the difference between the essential and the optional. 

Learning to look within without fear and accept ourselves for who we are is one of the genuine gifts of growing older, actively learning to create our own sense of well-being, knowing, like a poker player, what to let go and what to keep. Jung was right when he wrote ' your vision will become clear when you can look into your own heart.'

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