Most of us fall into living, headfirst if we’re lucky, and many of us retain that sense of swoosh, that being-carried-by-the-river feeling most of the time. Practices of mindfulness (in all their many forms, from all their many sources) generally try to help us open our eyes, our minds, our hearts to where we are, so that we may be there with greater intention and acceptance. I always figure that something’s true if two or more unexpected sources concur (like never sitting with your back to the door: Mafiosos and Feng Shui are in perfect agreement), so when Saul Alinsky tells us that we have to live in the world as it is and work toward the world as it should be, well, I hear the mindfulness types all over that.
Craftspeople and artists are practitioners of mindfulness, listening to themselves, their medium, their world in order to celebrate, represent, or shift it. The Craftsman movement (or Arts and Crafts) inspires me, with its emphasis on human dignity over industrialism; its insistence on the beauty in the ordinary; its conviction that aesthetic, material, and spiritual choices are all connected; its close ties to social movements of progressivism and justice. Indeed, “In English, to describe something as a craft is to describe it as lying somewhere between an art (which relies on talent and technique) and a science (which relies on knowledge)” (Wikipedia, naturally). Neither art nor science alone is capacious enough, or nimble enough, to help us grapple with all these big questions, so I’m hoping “craft” is. I hope this blog (ugh, that word) will be a place to experiment with ideas and practices of craftsmanship in and with the larger materials of our lives. How do we exercise patience and gratitude? What do we eat, give, or wear, and from where? What are the objects, the colors, the ideas, the people we choose to embrace?
This blog got its start as detailed below, but mostly it’s here because I have too many connected interests and I wanted a place to write about them, to sort them and look at them and maybe converse with others about them. See, my problem since time immemorial has been curiosity and a desire for mastery. But I have a synthetic mind: I connect whatever dots I see, for better or worse. And with the world where it is and my life where it is, well, some written reflection just seems prudent.
A blog like this seems the last hope of the desperate. And a particular kind of desperation at that: a kind that demands that life have meaning and beauty and some sort of order. A kind that insists we keep growing, even when it hurts or seems just plain stupid. So here I am, typing away in my effort to keep living the questions I’ve been teaching about for years. Yes, this blog’s title comes from a course I designed way back when: “Passion and Sustenance: On Crafting a Life.” It was a study of community, vocation, sustainability, and work. Ever since I left my paid work to raise my family, I’ve been trying to cleave to these questions, to remember the readings and to live with the ideas we bandied about so carelessly in the classroom. And now the questions matter even more, because now they are wrapped around more of us.
So what will I do here? Remains to be seen. But at this moment, here are my topics:
Working (paid, free, idealized, crap, whatever)
Living (on earth; in the land; in community)
Growing (plants, people, whatever)
Making (food, art, words — craft is everywhere)
Hoping (what some might call faith, love, or imagination)
Nothing is neatly sorted or sortable, but as you’ll soon see, that’s just my speed. It’s all connected, anyway, so we might as well take a deep breath. Keywords: patience, humility, generosity. And hope.