That title is actually an accurate description of what I suspect the following blogs in this series will contain.

The truth be known, I chose to use the word MANIFESTO because it rolled off the tongue nicely in conjunction with MADCAP.
However, after having looked up the definition, I think in a literal sense I may have used exactly the correct word…..sort of.

a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
synonyms: policy statement, mission statement, platform, (little) red book, program, declaration, proclamation, pronouncement, announcement
“a party manifesto that would change the course of world politics”

While I would dearly love to be organized and thoughtful enough to actually develop a true manifesto directed at the furtherance of woodworking, I think I will settle for creating an evolving collection of thoughts and ideas. I can’t seem to be able to effectively document the various trains of thought I have been playing with in preparation for writing this first installment. Therefore, rather than bucking the goads, I have decided to let go of the idea of a much more cohesive and structured series of posts, and I shall instead just write about one little bit or piece of the many, many bunny trails I have been toying with of late.

To start:

I am actually hopeful that the latest, albeit small, revival of the desirability of things handcrafted, will take deep root and begin to grow. It seems that since this last economic downturn, people are either by design, or inadvertantly, creating a sort of “Bizzarro  Economy”.  It is because of this alternate economy that crafts, and by extension, craftsmanship, seem to be garnering more and more attention. More and more attention, and more and more interest.

My generation, the “GEN-Xers”, are for the most part, ensconced in their  post collegiate, mid career lives. Comfortable, perhaps even well off, but maybe a bit worried that all that glitters is not gold. For most, those college educations came with a hefty price tag. Especially if graduate school was required in order to fulfill the entirety of what was an expected educational path to career.  By and large we Xer’s are politically, technologically, socially, ecologically and environmentally conscious. Some of us are actually capable of critical thinking and are discovering, perhaps a little late in life, just what is really going on around us.

Without going off on a “bash the rich, bash the corporations, blah, blah, blah rant” suffice to say, those of us with open hearts, minds and eyes are realizing that the world we are experiencing in real time, the world we are living in, the world a great number of us are just surviving in, is not the Donna Reed-Brady Bunch-Family Ties- world we were lead to trust would be there for us.

While this was, and is……and will probably be, a rude awaking for some, it also seems to have been a wake up call for many, myself included. Here you have a generation (and we are not the only one) that started out playing the game by traditional and well established “rules”. We discovered that, to one degree or another, the game was “fixed”.It was then that we found ourselves at a cross roads. Play on, hoping to catch a break and be able to reach that level of perceived success?

Pull a Captain Kirk and change not only the rules of the game, but the game itself. 

My own epiphany came during my divorce. While deeply painful and a catalyst for much weeping and gnashing of teeth, the experience showed me how stripping down to only those things you really need (emotionally, physically, relationally,) can really simplify your life. I found that after having chased after the image of happiness, after having perfected the image of completeness and contentment, I had absolutely no idea what the reality of satisfaction felt like.

It was not until I met the love of my life that I felt safe enough to explore these areas in my life. I had become proficient in simplifying and eliminating “extra stuff” and found the experience very satisfying. Now I was being encouraged to explore a LIFE that made me happy.

“If you could do anything as a career, what would it be? What would a happy Madcapwoodwright look like in his dream career”?
Seemingly a very easy question posed to me by my wife. Surprising how difficult it was to answer. I really had to dig deep and try to quantify what type of work, or what idea of an ideal work day looked like. What was it that I had not yet done but dream of doing one day that will satisfy me? What had I done in the past that truly made me happy?

There it was.

I remembered that I was most happy when I was first starting out in woodworking. When I apprenticed with Don Rauh (mentioned in previous posts), I remembered how excited I was to find work in a real life cabinet shop, and then another, and another, and another….I guess I truly was finally a journeyman….

Once I got my head around actually being happy at woodworking again, was right about the time that LOML began to encourage me to take classes, to explore having my own shop again, to build aesthetically pleasing things with precision just because it FELT GOOD.

One of the things that I have noticed is that many other people are fortunate enough to also be walking this path with me. They too have become disconnected with what would be considered a normal or traditional career path. (though I cant really imagine a MORE traditional career path than woodworking, but more on that later) They may have enjoyed photography, or painting, or blacksmithing, or singing. They have also decided that there is more to life than 9 to 5, and have decided to scale down. They have decided to slow down. They may be in a place where it is all that they can do to put the rent money together working the 9 to 5 job, and decided that they could be scraping by just the same if they were working a part time job, or several part time jobs, doing something that makes them happy. Strange how lyrics from the song “Bobby McGee”  come to mind.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to loose”

The point between loosing it all, and discovering the freedom of having nothing. THAT is Top Dead Center. That is where a person can find creativity that has long been dormant. Once I experienced the realization that there was a difference between having lots and lots of things, and having a real and fulfilled life experience, woodworking suddenly became my medium for expressing creatively.

Others are making very similar discoveries. Not only that, but they are discovering the joy of sharing. Folks, currently in small numbers I suspect, are discovering the joys of creating. They are discovering the joys of not just expressing craftsmanship as a means of making a living, but they are discovering that it’s OK to work with their hands, that it is enjoyable and rewarding and simple. They are discovering that while a, to coin a phrase, “Lifestyle Craftsman/persons” life is not generally one of great affluence, it IS a life that can be enjoyed with a great deal of satisfaction that the masses just don’t seem to have the chance to experience. Not yet anyway.

So here are a number of people who have changed gears and chosen a life path that departs from the expected norm. They create, and they are focused on expanding outward, rather than hoarding and inward. This presents a quandary, the rest of the world is built on an infrastructure that is very different than the path they/we are following. We need to exist and function in this world. It would be maladaptive and actually sort of selfish to cloister ourselves away and tinker in our tiny shops alone, sharing with no one.

I submit that it is a karmic requirement of any of us, to be open to sharing our experience, our skills, our time, and our selves with those who express interest in knowing what we know.  Not just as a craftsman ( Craftswoman, or crafts person is implied from this moment on. I am the author, you are the audience, I outrank you), but as a fellow human. Life is far too short to hoard the tools. Life is too short to hoard all the good wood. Life is too short to hoard all the available learning.

WOW….see…see…I AM the KING of bunny trails.

A MADCAP MANIFESTO is going to be a bit…….scattered. I make no excuses. There are a lot of thoughts, and ideas swirling around up here in this melon of mine, I like to think that there may even be some of value. For what it is worth, this is an example of something that I would enjoy sharing. Rest assured that there is plenty more where this came from…..

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