The oldest artifacts of human endeavor – cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira, tools in the Blombos caves, Venus figurines so fantastically old we hardly recognize ourselves – are works of art. Creativity is the imprint of humanity, from the outline of a hand painted with ochre on a cave wall, to the mandalas and sacred paintings of the medieval traditions, to the films and music and poetry of today. Throughout all of human history, creativity has been the means by which we understand the inner and the outer worlds, the crucible in which we store our collected wisdom and our fears. The function of all creative traditions – the arts and the sciences, religion and philosophy, politics and war – is to explore the extent to which we can know ourselves.
Approach Teaching as a Devotion
Plato wrote that the past is like the wake behind a boat; it spreads, and diminishes behind us, and merges with the surrounding sea. The past rolls under and is gone.
In an age of plastics and composites, wood has not surrendered its claim on the mariner. The color and texture of grain, the particular warmth of wood in the sun, the way a teak gunwale is shaped precisely to meet the grasping hand: these qualities of wood embody the romance of the sea. But unlike our nautical forebears, who were intimately acquainted with the properties of spruce and cedar and teak and jarrah, many mariners of today are not familiar with the proper means of selecting woods for marine use. In this two-part series, we’ll explore a straightforward procedure for choosing, installing, and finishing wood. In this issue, we’ll begin on the boat, with the challenge of wood selection.
We tend to think of the tension between pristine nature and human ambition as a contemporary struggle, but the urge to own and exploit forests is a fundamental human impulse. At every point in history, wherever humans have possessed sufficient technology or population to deplete natural abundance, we have done so. In much of Central America, Australia, Europe and Africa, territory that has been void of trees for centuries was once cleared by people to make fire and build homes. According to one theory, the Sahara is the result of a giant, ancient clearcut. Today’s forestry dilemmas are simply the latest round in what has been a protracted engagement.