The Good Life – Trying New Things

I’m feeling a little bit discombobulated these days. My head is filled with a strange new terminology from an alien realm of knowledge. I’m talking about words and concepts such as sapwood, carcase construction, tung oil, ripping, and a bewildering variety of joining techniques (dado, biscuit, butt, rabbet, mortise-and-tenon, etc.) none of which I had ever heard of before the beginning of last week. In case you are thoroughly confused, I have been spending some time during weekends and evenings helping my nine year old daughter to plan out and build a bookcase for her bedroom. I feel as though I have rarely had my competence so severely tested, but I’m enjoying every moment of it.

A very wise friend of mine, an elementary school teacher who happens to be something of a Jill-of-all-trades (and in fact a master of several) once told me that she believes most human beings should be ashamed of themselves for not pushing harder to learn new skills. In her opinion, it is all very well for a person to play to their strongest hand, talent-wise. Someone who is a gifted artist should be painting or making sculptures. Scientists and engineers should be going about their business. But, she argued, we should also be spending some time and energy to develop skills that maybe do not come so easily to us.

According to her, there is no reasonable excuse as to why each and every one of us should not to be able to do a wide variety of things such as cook a meal, drive a standard-transmission automobile, play a musical instrument, balance the finances, take a decent photograph, write a poem, play a sport, and create a piece of art worthy of hanging on our living room walls. The object here is not to expect perfection of ourselves, but simply to take the time to keep growing and learning. This is something I would like to keep in mind as I raise my daughter to be a fully-functioning, well-rounded human being.

As for the bookcase, so far we have managed to pick out the design and buy the wood. We are currently in the process of begging and borrowing the proper tools and equipment, including a router for the dado joints. Hopefully the whole thing will be completed by the time school starts on September 5th, all ready to accommodate her new French immersion textbooks. Wish me luck!

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