I somewhat, till this day, see myself as a hands-on type of bloke although going by prevalent circumstances, that phrase by itself seems untenable. The truth is that while design and handcraft has always appealed to me, I have also allowed the process of building things from scratch influence my daily actions. Growing up, my parents insisted that in addition to the traditional education, you had to learn a skill and that period of internship usually occurred between the end of high school and the beginning of college. I still hear the words. “God might favour you and send you to a strange environment and while others are clinging fiercely to the stereotyped job ladder; many bruised, bloodied and with dreams dashed – you can take a step back when you don’t land that dream job and begin doing something on your own.” Maybe that, to a very large extent has influenced my mindset when it comes to education and career.
For me, when the break came and it was time to ‘go learn a craft’, I opted for carpentry and photography. Carpentry, because the artisan who roofed my father’s city house was a very smart fellow, skilled in his work and despite having a aspeech impediment, was not fazed at all having a conversation with me. My choice of craftsmanship was instantly made when I found out Zippamore was in his third year at college and was actually self-sponsored, and the acquisition of that snippet of information pretty much killed the idea that some jobs are meant for some class of people. Yes, my parents ensured that there were no airs about us, we might not have been wealthy but we were not poor either. Both my parents were educated and held down white collar jobs and so it would have been quite easy to develop an air of privilege based solely on that, but I can tell you that they neither allowed or tolerated any of that foolishness. We earned what we got and learned that unto each person, a purpose lies, a path beckons and a destination awaits. I still remember the very first day I walked into the carpenter’s workshop and found the other world where brawn was almost as equal as brains, where I learned the necessity of taking care of yourself after being bloodied once or twice. Oh, it was an eye opener indeed.
Unfortunately, there were not many blacksmiths that we knew of but besides carpentry, blacksmithing had always appealed to me because I really loved working with metal. Throw in the classic Robert Louis Stevenson ‘Treasure Island’ into the mix that was my life then, and a blade, a spool of cotton and a match book became constant companions of mine. Nearly four decades after, my fascination with metals and their hidden potential still remains and now I am also an avid watcher of History Channel’s ‘Forged by fire’. The importance of design was also conveyed to me then because without a design to keep you on track, many days will be spent wandering around in circles. So it is truly impressive seeing how an otherwise innocuous piece of junk metal, steel scrap can be forged into a beautiful tool…..but there is a process before that junk becomes that beauty. Three essential features of any process; the furnace, the hammer and the anvil. You do not go interning at an active blacksmith’s forge dressed in duck whites because you sure are not going to remain that way within the first hour. Copious amounts of perspiration, lots of heavy lifting and wielding are inevitable elements as you try to draw out that steel into lengths and patterns that meet the specification of your design.
It is quite appropriate for life and its many events to be likened to a couple of days in the smithie’s. It is a process and if the steel could talk, I know for sure that sound mufflers (not just the ordinary ones) would be a critical tool because the screams of refusal from the steel would most definitely deafen you. But it doesn’t protest as it is thrust into the forge where it is left until it is almost white hot and only then can it be taken out and pounded by the hammer (pneumatic ones now) on the anvil till it has a rough semblance to the design that you had in mind. One lesson that I learned at an early age is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it does not matter how long or heavy the chain is, its fate is down to that weakest link. At the shipyards, those huge anchors that keep the ship in place are usually at the end of a long chain and more often, a key part of a ship mate’s daily role is to inspect that anchor and chain to ensure that the each link on that massive chain is devoid of cracks, fracture or any form of impediment because when that order “heave to” is bellowed out and the anchor is released, just that one weak link could determine the safety of the vessel and the lives on board.
We are in the summer and each day is a struggle for me because I find myself totally exhausted with just the least amount of work done. Heat ironically is one of the triggers for the primary generalised dystonia and myoclonus that I have and so I would trade Alaska or Melbourne for a proposed vacation in a heartbeat. However I know that you cannot go through life having just one season and so I try to stay as hydrated as possible, take as many showers I can, forego the layered clothing and still cope with a body that is hurting in almost every joint at each day’s end. At the onset of this unique journey that I am presently on, I learned painfully that there are smarter ways of getting a task done than just applying sheer muscle. Despite the number of comments I receive about how ‘toned’ I still am, it amuses me because I really wish I could for just one day, instruct my brain to let my nerves and muscles be. The tremors are physically exerting and just having a severe dystonic bout lasting more than an hour is pretty scary to even imagine but life is a process.
These days, I have taken an entirely different approach, I choose to be as welcoming as I can be especially on social media because if only individuals could read on the face what each person is going through, I am optimistic that our world will change for the better. Being a member of so many support groups has and is still an honour to me, I have encountered so many people from all over the world with medical conditions like mine and just being a member of such groups continues to drive home each day, the fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Each day, somebody somewhere is having a really torrid time and being strong enough to utter these three words “I need help/prayers” is actually a testament to the intrinsic strength that defies human comprehension. Having a private conversation with someone who’s almost at their tether’s end; encouraging them on, reminding them of the fact that to every beginning, there is an inevitable end is so gratifying because it takes my mind off of my own struggles and lend an ear or a shoulder to someone else.
Entirely disregarding the picture that we may present, like two totally inebriated chaps exiting the pub in the wee hours of a new day, we prop each other up and stagger on, choosing to ignore the ignorant yet scathing looks and comments, we acknowledge that we are a chain and if one of us goes down, then we all go down. It does not matter if the ache in my neck is killing me, or I can barely get out of bed, when someone cries out for help, I choose to be there because as long as my vocal chords or fingers don’t tap out on me, there is something I can do because I am a link in that chain. As we constantly encounter life’s events, I choose to see this dystonia as the forge and regardless of how long I spend in it, I am confident that the finished product would be worth the pain and agony. The longer I spend in the forge, the better and stronger I will emerge and as the hammer and the anvil painfully stretch me out, I choose to remember that there is a design to my life. A design that was not drawn by me but one that in due time, show off every strength, facet, allure and usefulness that had hitherto been buried within.
God’s design is not flawed, that I tell myself each day and when the heat of the furnace threatens to becloud my senses or the pounding of the hammer seems like it is going to irreparably break me, I find comfort in these whispered words; “I am being strengthened and purified and designed. I cannot rely on my own strength because I truly do not know my own strength. I am but a link in this chain and I refuse to be the weakest link!’
Remember that if God gave His very best for us when we least deserved it, He has by design placed us as a link in a chain of lives and therefore nothing is good enough to hold us back from giving. We are all distinct and unique signature pieces of God’s superb craftsmanship. There is no solace in the darkness, no display of strength in pretention, no truth in a cunningly crafted veneer of falsehood because at the very end, you have nothing but a life that has been lived either by the choice of never to be the weakest link or a life that like the will o’ wisp will be forgotten once it has barely even begun. There is no misery in sincerity, no victory in glorying affliction, no weakness in vulnerability however at our life’s end, all but nought will be laid bare and even as the anchor buries itself in the sand, our chain of lives will either stand in testament to a purposeful life or shear apart in dismay.
עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות