Working with Wood

This is my year of woodworking and this post is a status report. It’s been a couple months, things are going well and I’m still very interested in continuing. I don’t necessarily engage in woodworking on a daily basis, perhaps because I don’t have that many interesting project ideas. I had the same problem with computer-programming — I couldn’t find anything interesting to make within my skill/patience level. And for woodworking, I need to stay within a tiny budget and keep the projects on the small-side.

My primary hobby right before this was philosophizing and transcribing my thoughts into this blog. It turns out I can’t fully escape that path. I’ve been filling the quietude of woodworking with podcasts, usually spirituality-based ones. Funny enough, I can’t otherwise listen to such things — but by having part of my attention focused on woodworking and my hands busy, I can listen to someone drone on for a couple hours, easy.

My most recent projects are a couple of small boxes and a magic-wand with scrap-wood stand. I’ve tried a few spells such as Expelliarmus and Expecto Patronum but no luck so far. I mainly used my Morakniv whittling knife to carve the wand out of a 16″ long 5/8″ poplar square (I also used my Shinto Saw Rasp for some material removal). And just to note, I’ve been coloring most projects with an easy-cleanup water-based wipe-on stain, either Pecan (light) or Walnut (dark). The shiny box has a polyurethane coat as well (the soap & water cleanup kind).

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Without Form

Misty Marsh

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void…

Yesterday I went walking at the marsh. Apparently it hadn’t rendered yet — I was surrounded by pure potential. I’m beginning to intuit that what’s out there really isn’t there — I’m the projector and I’m simply perceiving the screen. There are no landmarks existing independent of my projections.

I should note that I rarely, if ever, go out on little solo excursions such as I did. But for some odd reason, I got into the car and drove to the misty marsh. It was a surreal experience driving through the fog alone on the rendering road in the early morning. After arriving, I walked until I got to the bridge, where I made a wish. Then I continued walking until the first bench — I sat and stared out at the void.

Eventually the spell wore off and I remembered who I had been the day before. Walking back was less mystical — the world was forming. But does it have to be the same world I remember? Or could it have been made anew, into a place more pleasant than I recall?

According to my theory, I must not calculate my route based on input from the senses. Those things out there are only the result, not the source — I am the source. Limitations are the obstacles I define and make manifest. I dangle tantalizing items just out of reach, causing my own frustration. I decorate my surroundings with ghouls and ghosts that frighten. All is illusion colored by my imagination.

P.S. Is it Saturday again?… Oh, yep, check.

Democratic Consensus

People often assume that democracy necessitates a majority-rule system. For instance, two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner — obviously in a majority-rule system the sheep is toast. So, majority-rule is not a sustainable system, the majority would continually exploit the minority. And from the minority perspective, why would they agree to be contributing participants in a society that guarantees their powerlessness? The point of a democracy is for the people, ALL PEOPLE, to have power.

In a well-functioning democracy therefore, the sheep’s voice matters. “Oh you don’t want to be eaten? Then we shall compromise and come to a consensus.” A well-functioning democracy polls the people not to determine a ruling majority, but to listen to the tiniest voice of dissent. If there is no consensus, then there is no democracy, you simply have tyranny of the majority.

Another example: Jim, Carol, and Alice are deciding on what to have for lunch. Jim and Carol vote for a large cheese pizza but Alice is allergic to all dairy ingredients. In a majority-rule system, Alice is screwed. But in a democratic system in which every voice matters, a compromise is reached and Alice receives a palatable meal.

In a well-functioning democracy there are no teams because every voice is heard, there’s no vying for a majority. Every individual has the right to live the life he sees fit. Within a viable democracy, two conditions should be met: society must maintain a belief in everyone’s equality, and secondly, the powerful must sacrifice a portion of their power for the sake of the democracy.

For example, the wolves must respect the sheep’s right to live unmolested while welcoming their participation in society. Additionally, the wolves must not use their power to intimidate and force preferential outcomes. Because of this, rules of civility and equality must be maintained and enforced and checks must be placed on the influence of the powerful.

If a society maintains a tyranny of the majority, it’s a cruel and careless system that is not worthy of upkeep. A sustainable and well-functioning democracy necessitates that every voice is heard and considered.

No Whammies

I have that common conundrum of trying to figure out just who I am. The simplistic answer is: just be yourself and react naturally to life’s stimuli as stuff continually parades before you. But the problem with “being myself”, is that I very easily assume the role of a pessimistic hater, regularly predicting disaster and criticizing everything. That guy lives in a hopeless world where everything sucks — yuck. Because I don’t like the results of that attitude, I had to develop mindfulness, an awareness of what I was thinking and saying — so now when I catch myself being “that guy”, I stop.

But if I cut out a major portion of my personality, what am I left with? Who am I? I was very much motivated by fear, now what am I supposed to be driven by? I’m not sure what my ambitions are. I do have some ideas of how I’d like to live but I have no inspiration for how to proceed. It feels like I’m hanging out in a waiting room, in line to collect my lottery winnings — I know all the stuff I want to buy and the things I’d do with my time, but I’m just waiting for the check. A path by which I perform some physical act to attain those things isn’t appearing in my imagination.

So as I sit, I’m keeping busy, engaging in some hobbies with the limited resources I have. For instance, I’ve spent the last couple months building some small wood working projects and buying some relatively inexpensive tools. Beyond that, I browse real estate sites, shop for the things I’d buy when the money rolls in, and make “vision boards”. If you told me ten years ago that I’d be making a vision-board, I’d’ve called you an idiot. Now I’m “that guy” who dreams of ideal days and creates slide-show-based vision-boards of where I want to live.

I wouldn’t mind winning the actual lottery. I want to win the Lucky for Life lottery so I can tell people my job is “breathing”. The longer I live, the more I’m paid. I used to say, “there’s no reward for longevity” — now there really would be. That amuses me. Some people need assigned activities to keep busy — not me though. I’ve always been about autodidacticism and entertaining myself. It takes a certain personality to be able to live a life of leisure. My friend is quite capable of living a life-of-leisure too which is why we live in a mobile-home in a trailer-park I suppose.

But you know who wins the lottery? Trailer-park folk, that’s who. We’re just fulfilling the prophesy. “Oh, Patron Saint of the Lottery, I have fulfilled thy covenant by residing within the sacred single-wide. Now I pray thee to grant me thine fruits of triple cherries. Let thy coinage flow from thine silver vomiting orifice. May my pockets be ever widening as I humbly accept the gift I do not deserve yet receive with abundant appreciation. And may all who request such luck receive the jackpot they so desire.” I don’t consider myself lucky, perhaps I’ve just been saving it all for this one moment.

Hm, this feels like a Saturday post. Checking calendar… yep. I always write the strangest posts on Saturdays….

Cool Tools Ep. 1, Drill-bits

Bosch Quick-Change

Ever since I saw Norm Abram from The New Yankee Workshop using a quick-change drill-bit adapter on his drill many years ago, I knew I needed one. And now, I finally have one — this Bosch is it. I also have a Kobalt Quick-Change set I got at Lowes a couple weeks ago and it sucks in comparison to the Bosch. The bits go right in without any finagling, it’s truly a one-handed operation.

 

Dewalt Countersink Set

To go into the quick-change drill-bit adapter, I needed some drill-bits of course. For woodworking I’m mainly driving #6, #8, #10, (and sometimes #4) wood screws. These screws go in best with countersunk pilot-holes, so the ideal drill-bit performs this operation as a single step.

Previously I was using standard drill-bits that I’d tighten in my chuck, then I’d follow-up with a #2 Phillips-head screwdriver to ream out a countersink-hole for the screw head. Yes that’s right, I was twisting a screwdriver back and forth using it as a crude countersink tool every time I put in a screw. Madness!

And now with my quick-change adapter I can easily swap to a #2 Phillips bit after drilling — I can drill and screw as much as I want very quickly compared to when I had to unscrew the chuck every time to switch bits.

 

Snappy Countersink Set

The Dewalt countersink set is decent and it comes with tapered drill-bits which is a neat adaptation. I also purchased these Snappy ones because they’re not tapered and they come with a #4 wood-screw sized bit. The countersink cutters on the Snappy came dull and I had to sharpen them before they’d work effectively — they’re pretty decent now. I still kinda like the Dewalts a little better, but sometimes the top part of the taper can be a little roomy for the incoming screw.

All-in-all, these particular tools have made woodworking much more pleasurable when compared to tightening and untightening the chuck to insert various round drill bits then swapping in a Phillips bit and using a #2 screwdriver as a countersink tool. It seems I was correct in my analysis from last month: it’s not that woodworking sucked or I sucked at woodworking, I just needed more tools.

Chasing Significance

What do the enlightened do after achieving enlightenment? The same stuff as everyone else, they just appreciate it more than before. As is said:

Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

Enlightenment simply broadens one’s perspective, the content of life remains the same. Imagine a fairytale after the epic adventure concludes — what happens next? Characters go back to their everyday lives.

We so often sour our lives by lamenting a lack of significance. But even if achieved, things eventually normalize, becoming familiar and repetitive.

We therefore need to practice and perfect the process of extracting enjoyment from our everyday experiences. There is nothing but this.

In every moment of our day, we must be finding the fun, distilling the delight. It’s not an event that makes or breaks our life, but the routine we make for ourself from the components we’re surrounded by.

As the sun unceasingly rises and sets, seek satisfaction from simplicity. From the daily meals we consume, in the repetitiousness of rhythm, toiling upon our tasks, amongst the people we call family — comes the comfort of familiarity.

Tested Faith

An excerpt from the fictional non-fiction tales of Man’s Journey: A Love Story about Life.

I always vacillate between whether life is a movie or a video-game. I know it’s fiction, I’m just not sure which type. To help me ponder this dichotomy apparently, I was recently struck down by a minor illness. Cold, flu, who knows, who cares. First it hit my friend. I laughed a little, secure in my ability to manipulate space-time and all things spiritual while feeling sorry for her lack of faith.

In my view, sickness is preceded by sadness or stress. So in that sense, illness stems from a common source whether your primary foundation of existence lies in a mechanical or spiritual belief system. So either your physical body is worn down and susceptible to disease or your spiritual fortitude is weak and welcomes negative energy into your life.

We can plainly see that not everyone gets sick even when exposed to the same environmental conditions. Why do some get sick while others don’t? There’s something beyond the simplicity of “germs” and “viruses” and exposure. But what? Plus, people’s recovery times vastly vary — but why?

An early influence in my philosophy about life, the zoologist Desmond Morris mentioned in his book The Naked Ape how he believed many forms of sickness to be related to our underlying primate grooming needs. In other words, humans subconsciously use ailments as a means to connect with fellow humans. If someone gets a cold for instance, it’s because he requires comfort and the sickness invites others to take care of him.

I’ve used my current belief for quite awhile to explain sickness, and so far it holds up to the limited scrutiny I’ve applied. The primary reason I maintain this belief is because it helps me to feel as though I’m in control of illness. As long as I’m not sad or stressed, I’ll be fine. If I do get sick, then I know I caused it with my lack of appropriate mental maintenance — something I can work on. Another benefit is that it scares me into keeping a positive attitude — I dare not concentrate on things that sadden or stress lest I get sick.

As it happens, my friend was actually feeling a bit stressed and sad — so her recent illness fits neatly within my model. Under my theory, proper mindfulness could have prevented her sickness once she realized her sad/stressed state. She could have said, “hmm, I notice I’m out-of-sorts, I better adjust my attitude and focus on the great things life has to offer rather than the worst aspects I can imagine — or else I’ll likely induce some sort of physical ailment upon myself.”

Could my friend have played the game better? Or was she scripted to receive her uncomfortable condition? Was an unstoppable wave of negativity coming her way, causing her initial stress and sadness, and then her subsequent physical ailment? Could mindfulness have helped? Is every stimulus mere potentiality, our reactions forming scenes and situations based around our thoughts and emotions? The question becoming, should we accept our fate or fight for the path we prefer?

Well as it turns out, I started feeling a bit off-kilter. Did the stress of my friend’s condition put upon me the impetus to get sick myself? Am I just a wannabe follower forever treading in my friend’s footsteps? Must I simply resign myself to the narrative before me? Could I utilize mindfulness to talk myself out of sickness? Is it my duty to fight against such forces?

Christian Science for instance says that the belief in sickness is my error, God simply doesn’t create such things — I do, through my confusion. My other takeaway from Science and Health, is that we don’t exist within a physical reality, it’s simply a simulation of sorts, thus we’re not limited by the material realm — we create the world through thought.

Even if this is true though, I must be mindful and well-disciplined enough to accept and practice this belief. Do I have that ability? Can I ignore the stimuli that says otherwise? The slight chills creeping down my limbs, the little aches appearing around my body? The tiredness clouding over my mind?

Long story short, I did not have the ability to manipulate space-time and all things spiritual. I had a high temperature and low energy, really bad headache, and couldn’t sleep due to discomfort.

I remember back when I was younger, there was an incident in which I was overcome with sickness. Nothing major, but I was very uncomfortable. Eventually, I got so sick of that sickness that I marched out of my room and into the garage — and closed the door behind me. It was go-time, I was about to get down and dirty. I don’t quite remember the specifics, but I got a bit rough and sickness left after that.

But having just thought about that story, I realize that I have a long history of quarreling with sickness. What this tells me is that I’m “energized” by illness, it’s a problem to solve, a challenge to overcome. So by engaging with sickness, I’m inviting its presence. To remove sickness therefore, I would have to pay it no mind — not ready myself for battle.

I tend to see sickness as a game every time it pops up, a game of can-I-overcome-it? I always refuse medicinal-aids based on that premise: that I will defeat this by my mind alone. One obvious flaw in the game is that if I avoid illness from the start, I can’t win, there’s nothing to play. I’d have to get slightly symptomatic to prove its presence, then dismiss it from there — then I’d win. But that never happens — whenever I get symptoms, I get lost to the illness, focusing only on the ride it takes me on, the total takeover of my physical being.

I’ll admit this other aspect too: in a group, when you’re the one that’s well, a lot of responsibility gets put on your shoulders. Suddenly you go from a dude that just shows up whenever the dinner-bell rings, to a dude that has to fend for himself or even a dude that has to start taking care of others. Yikes. I’ll further admit that I shrink from responsibility, it’s just my nature. So did I feel a sense of relief when I transformed from being the only healthy adult to a poor sickly patient, umm….

And so ladies and gentlemen, I think we have our answer. It was not germs or improper hygiene, nor even a lack of faith that caused illness to manifest within me. No, I was sick simply because it was lonely at the top. It was the shortest route to resigning from a leadership position. It turns out that I am the lazy-good-for-nothing that my friend always accused me of being. But on the plus side, that means I truly do have influence over illness…. Faith restored!