I study the lines of a wall cabinet….a piece made to take to Humble Trade days this weekend….proportioned to the Golden Ratio. I work in the shadow of the greats….minds like Pythagoras, Fibonacci, and Johannes Kepler….all who revered and valued the ratio….the Golden Mean…everything in the cabinet is constructed according to the Mean…
The ratio says that one line is beautiful if related to another by 1.6180339887….numbers without meaning to most. But holy to others…biologists, artists, architects and so many others have found the mathematics of beauty in the Golden Mean. It is a ratio that strikes a chord in the human mind and heart…for to our eye it looks like nature…because it is nature. The Golden Mean is expressed in the relationship of branches to trees. We are built according to its descriptions….No less a man than Galileo say the Mean in the way we are constructed.
So, I used geometry, also algebra and a bit of calculus because I don’t construct in right angles…..
And since my cabinet is of the west, I studied western architecture….the ranches, homes of the natives of New Mexico….living history….fitting my work into a cultural lineage that goes back into the dim mists of time.
History…of New Mexico, Texas, the New World, Spain….what things you must know to build good furniture…not without problems however….then research until the technical problem is solved….How do I build a cabinet that stands partly in the tradition of the west which means Hispanic culture and also in the classical lines of the Golden Mean…. Research…learning….
Reading….I read books on Hispanic and western architecture, technique in working with mesquite, the origins and use of Turquoise, the symbols I use on the cabinet to let it tell of hope and faith and a good future…. Reading….
Tired….having done real work, moving wood, moving machines, cleaning up…actual physical education for a classical purpose….
I look again at my geometry curious….Golden spirals, along with Logarithmic spirals….how would I have ever learned about those….
And where does red oak grow, and mesquite? Red Oak…grows leaves with 7 to 11 lobes each… this fabulous tree can grow two feet a year…no wonder the one in the neighbor’s yard seems bigger everyday….I would never have guessed that it tolerates pollution well making it a good city dweller. But it likes zones 3 through 8 basically the southern United States…a tree of the south…with grain so open you can breath through it. But a beautiful wood it is too.
The geography of Mesquite includes the American Southwest….of the American Indians…..a tree that is a bearer of beans, knurled branches, not tall but rugged…a bearer of beans and vicious thorns….thorns that can puncture a modern tire.. the beans can be ground into flour…meat roasted on mesquite is heavenly…
Today across america millions of kids sat in geometry, algebra and math classes wondering what is it for? I wish we taught them that math is for building houses, boats and calculating doses of medicines given to precious children…that they could learn this by doing or seeing it… no….doctors of common sense have said no, it must be learned in the abstract then tested in the abstract….dead like the body of a dissected cat… and we wonder why they are rebellious….we wonder why they are bored…
Over the last few years school board after school board in their infinite simpleness eliminated practicality for theoretical learning….for they listen to the doctors of common sense who may never have taught a living child instead of listening to their own hearts….they have grown simple by listening to those who have set themselves up as experts. But, I forget, many of them are products of industrial assembly line education as well…How could they know better…they were raised with the system that corrupted them….and they remain corrupted because they were taught to read problems and do artificial problems rather than life.
So we send them to school, to walk from square to square, to follow a bell…Pavlov would be proud…so would the Prussians of old who did not value individualism but simple obedience….and they try to learn in the abstract…
Would they were at home living life in the woodshop or the metal shop… or on a commercial fishing boat….practicing a difficult musical instrument…studying real math to accomplish real goals…instead of the false assignments of the schools….
When I decided to do woodwork, I got a book and found a mentor….then I “did”….How many kids can build every stick of furniture in their home when they graduate high school, how many could grow enough food on a suburban lot to feed themselves in times of scarcity….none today unfortunately….but now much of the furniture in my home is home built by my hands, hands that never took a class on woodworking…..what a message there.
How badly we are failing our children… by letting them be educated by the government instead of the people who should be educating them….their parents….but the things we worship are important…the nightly mass of the television set…the rituals of Monday night football….the university of life being watched instead of being lived.
If you want to learn “do”. If you want to be a sheep….well that’s the easy way…