Make of yourself an honest man, and there will be one less rascal in the world.Thomas Carlyle 1803 – 1855
It behooves a man to know human nature in general and his own nature in particular, at least in your humble servant’s opinion, which, along with $1.25, will buy a soft drink in a can.
Has Gentle Reader ever wondered why people do some of the things they do? While it makes perfect sense to work diligently for the necessities of life such as food, clothing, and housing, we do many unnecessary things that yield no apparent profit, for example gardening, despite fruits, vegetables and even flowers being easier and cheaper to purchase in a grocery store. And how about the large, lush green lawns and ornamental plants and trees we install around around our homes and maintain at great effort and expense, plants that serve no practical purpose but cost us time and money and other resources?
What whips drives us to these excesses?
I daresay this isn’t just a guy thing, either. Many ladies insist on weaving, knitting, and sewing clothing and home furnishings by hand even when mass-produced, inexpensive products of similar quality and utility can be readily purchased from stores anywhere. It just doesn’t make sense, and I say that as a husband who, at the behest of She Who Must be Obeyed, has spent thousands of dollars on CNC sewing machines with unobtanium armatures and smoothie attachments all to make quilts that never spend a second on a bed and seldom even see the light of day.
What is this madness that has her gripped in its talons?
But I fear the madness runs deeper still, for many males of the species spend inordinate amounts of time and money buying trucks, ATVs, clothing that makes them look like trees, camping gear and weapons of death and destruction (aka WODADs) in preparation for hunting season, a time when otherwise sane people don orange costumes and chase Bambi around the mountains and forests just to obtain the most expensive meat to be found anywhere in the world. It’s just nuts.
And don’t even get me started about fishing. A good time was had by all during these hunting and fishing expeditions, but the benefits are impossible to calculate. It just isn’t logical…
Woodworking is useful for making housing and furniture and many of the tools essential to civilization, but what about woodworking as a hobby? Isn’t it quicker, easier, less expensive and more sliver-free to buy pre-fabricated houses assembled on-site with bolts and furniture made of MDF, plastic and steel excreted by Chinese factories? Of course it is, so what is this friking parasite madly manipulating levers in our brains compelling us to make these things with our own hands instead?!
I don’t know why these urges drive us so relentlessly. I only know we want to do them and that doing them gives us satisfaction. But I do have a humble theory I will present for Gentle Reader’s consideration, just for giggles.
I believe that the habits and actions that successfully preserved our ancestors long enough for them to produce and raise each generation of humans became imprinted in each subsequent generation’s DNA.
Successful farmers who survived in ancient times passed particular genes on to their descendants. I suspect it is the farmer gene that compels so many of us to grow fruits and vegetable and surround our homes and cities with lawns and plants, a form of agriculture similar to that which kept our ancestors from starvation. It’s the only possible explanation for the universal compulsion to plant stuff.
The children of women who spun, wove, knitted and sewed clothing and bedding survived cold winters inheriting the sewing gene. I’m not sure where smoothie attachments fit into the equation, but clearly sewing machines have become part of the compulsion in modern times, possible evidence that behavior evolve.
The children of successful hunters and fishermen survived too. The compulsion to perform these activities is still strong in many, your humble servant included. I’m sure you’ll agree that the ritual of talking around the evening camp fire about the big one that got away while saber tooth tigers and cave bears prowled in the shadows beyond the light of the communal fire is much much older than recorded history.
Somewhere not far out on a limb of Gentle Reader’s family tree are hundreds, perhaps thousands of ancestors that shaped trees to make houses to protect and keep their families warm, and beds, tables, benches and chests to make life cleaner and more pleasant. This is a healthy and noble urge, one that, like farming, sewing, hunting and fishing has been useful in keeping body and soul in intimate contact for many thousands of generations in humanity’s past.
My father inherited the woodworking gene from a carpenter ancestor, one of two brothers that left England in the 1600’s to travel to South Carolina by leaky boat. It appears I in turn have passed it down to my sons and grandsons. I am glad of this for mayhap I hear the toenails of wolves clicking on stones in the dark shadows outside the firelight just now, so a solid door of thick hewn oak with a sturdy cross-bar may come in handy before the morning.
But for now, please ignore the snuffling and scratching noises at the door, pull up a chair by the fire and let’s get started on that chess game, shall we?
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