I am in the middle of a fantastic book on a subject near and dear to my heart (and hands!) – the spiritual dimension of craft. The book is Grain of Truth: the Ancient Lessons of Craft, by Ross A. Laird, and it is possibly one of the best books I have ever read in the area of personal development. I have read other good books on aspects of craft – Eric Sloane’s A Reverence for Wood leaps to mind – and lots of people have written on the spiritual/magical importance of blacksmithing; but I have not read another book that goes to the level of detail that Laird does concerning both his working technique and his working philosophy, or does it so lyrically. A sample:
“It is one of the unspoken truths of woodworking that tools respond to the craftsman; they respond to a gentle and caring touch. If I am receptive enough, working with hand tools is always a discovery. The tool points to new ways of doing things, new possibilities for drawing out the invisible and refined energy of the work. The ancient Taoist sages spoke of opening to mystery, opening through stillness, as the first act of understanding. Working with hand tools teaches, in a pragmatic way, the art of stillness. Tools teach this so well because they come from the earth, from stone and wood and fire. They have not forgotten the language of that source.”
“…of all the rituals of working with wood, all the diversity and challenge of it, sharpening is among the most meditative acts. The most physical and the most ethereal. It’s not a clean meditation, not refined or rarified or purely ecstatic – no, it is a meditation of the earth, of sweat and blood and dark stone. … Sharpening slices through the illusion that being human is something greater than the earth itself. It presents the simple truth of the body, stained hands and useless protests creating a tiny shard of nothingness.”
If you do craft work of any kind, I bet you will find this book inspirational; and if you don’t, it might just inspire you to start!