When you’re using sandpaper to smooth a surface, you start with lower/rougher grits and move your way up through higher and finer grits. For example, I might start with 150 grit to flatten out rough spots, but that leaves the surface a bit fuzzy feeling, so then I move up to 320 for a finer finish. If I want to get closer to an eggshell shine, I’ll follow that with 600 grit. And sometimes for the fun of it, I’ll go up to 1000 or even 2000 grit — the wood I use won’t really attain that level of sheen but I try anyway.
Okay, so what happens when you get impatient and rush through the grits? Maybe you’re sanding some wood or sharpening a knife or glossing up epoxy-resin. Well, if you switch to a higher grit too soon, the deep scratches from the courser grits won’t disappear, you’ll just get some shiny spots alongside the gashes. But you’re so anxious to see your reflection that you rush through the grits!
In life, I think I rushed through the grits. In many ways, I never got past pre-K. Just basic things like sleeping and using the toilet are actual challenges for me on a regular basis. I obviously have some deep gaps in knowledge. I suppose I skipped some early grits and wanted to get right to the final polishing. In gaming vernacular, you could call it a “speedrun”. Just get to the end!! Screw the build-up process and the prerequisites! I’m ready to graduate NOW!!
Thankfully, life isn’t an experience in which one must struggle for survival amidst a harsh and unforgiving landscape. I’ll be fine. Despite continually ignoring the basics, I’ve made it this far. That really says something about the degree to which life is willing to support and encourage my existence. It makes for an abrupt and disjointed narrative, but I don’t care. Life catches me struggling and says “Oops! You should be here by now sweetie!” and places me there anyway.
Not sure I’ll be getting high-score on this round guys….
Whittling is a subtractive process, meaning you start with a block of wood and remove some bits until you arrive at the shape you want. Whereas carpentry is additive: you keep adding boards until you arrive at the final structure. Carpentry also has a jigsaw-puzzle aspect, where pieces have to fit together just-right. I never bothered to contemplate the difference before, but the other day I noticed that I’m a particular type of woodworker.
I had split a block of wood into tiny planks with the idea that I’d assemble them into a small box — a carpentry project. But I sat there staring at the boards, deciding on how to assemble them. Carpentry is about precise cuts with saws and lots of sawdust — and that’s just not my style. I’m a knife guy — I like cutting into wood and having curls drop off. For instance, I already have a small box made from a block of wood that I simply hollowed-out with a knife and chisel.
So instead of piecing those tiny planks together, I’ve been using them as starting-points for carved pendants. It turns out that I’m into subtractive art, not additive — I wasn’t quite aware of the distinction before. And it’s true: when faced with a blank canvas, I don’t know where to begin — my mind is equally blank. But when presented with a work-in-progress, I can certainly tell you what doesn’t belong. It’s basically a form of criticism: “Nope, that doesn’t look right! Remove it!”. You just keep pecking away until there’s nothing left to criticize.
And this serves as a metaphor for life. If presented with the idea that life is a blank-canvas, I’m frozen with indecision. I don’t know how to proceed — I need something to evaluate and judge. BUT, this criticism needs to be applied with the intent of creating a work-of-art. I had been criticizing and stopping there — I wasn’t actually cutting anything out. Therefore I always see the same bits that don’t belong, every single day.
So instead of looking for what I should add into my life, I should be evaluating what I already have, then actively removing the bits that don’t belong i.e. whittling my life into a work of art. I had been trying an additive approach, which simply didn’t suit me AND I had neglected to remove the bits that didn’t fit. For example, my tendency for general-negativity is something that needs to be sliced away — and my knife in this context is mental-discipline.