Dodging the Bullet

We live in parlous times. Capitalism has ascended and taken its place as the new religion. We, as a society, taken as a group, as one giant mindless consuming pack, value nothing more permanent than the latest model, the quickest chip, the coolest beat, and the hippest phone. Our collective tongue hangs out in constant anticipation. Fashion has taken the place of quality. This is not a complaint. It’s sort of pointless to wail against the tide. When the water comes up, they ain’t nothing you can do about it.

So why bang on the obvious? I think to point out the simple fact that rather than complain or write ineffectual graffiti on the traffic signs like STOP the Monopoly, it is far better to go out and do something for yourself that makes a difference. If only for yourself, if only as one voice, if only as one mind trying to find some clarity amidst all this noise.

Many woodworkers come to this craft out of this sense of discontent. They come to this woodworking perhaps out of a reaction to the world they previously chose. It’s a response to the life they had once mapped out but now seems barren or perilous.

I commented to Brendan, my Resident Mastery student, this past week about how lucky we were to be woodworkers. How fortunate that our boss couldn’t one day decide to fire us and have us escorted from the building without being able to retrieve our files. No execution orders waiting in the wings for us. No, we have skills in our hands far too valuable to be out of favor.

I once was part of a Career Day at a grade school in North Portland. It was a blue collar school then. This was before the area became so hip. And I told the 1st graders about what I did and what my day was like and one kid came up to me at the Question/ Answer session and asked me, “What happens when you get laid off?” What a stunning question. That a 1st grader could ask me that, this history being his no doubt. But secondly I realized that well I can’t be laid off. I will always, as long as I am physically able, have my skills to use and builders will always have some value in this world. Even in this world, we will have value.

Watching someone’s career path can be like watching a stone roll downhill, banging into things, flying over smooth patches, slamming into rocks, ending up in the most unlikely of places. Trying to predict one is fruitless. And then you choose to do something that appeals to you, something that works your brain as hard as it does your hands, and you look up 34 years later and realize that you dodged a bullet. It’s not a good living, it’s a good life.

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Published in: on March 12, 2008 at 9:47 am  Comments (5)  
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  1. […] Wednesday Wisdom. Posted on March 12, 2008 by Doulos Christou This is a great piece by Gary Rogowski, a fantastic woodworker in the Northwest. It’s a good read for a number of reasons but especially because he uses the word parlous. Dodging the Bullet « The Northwest Woodworking Studio […]

  2. Parlous. I admit to having to look it up. Not being a literature major – Russian, English, or any other – I was stumped. But that’s just like woodworking, isn’t it? You get stumped, now and again. And if you can’t look it up, you have to figure it out. It works your brain…indeed it does.

  3. I took it for a typo as well, Gary is trying to make us think, sly dog.

  4. Gary,
    I love the themes you’re choosing. It is surprising where one ends up. I had no clear path, only that I didn’t want the corporate hand-cuffs my father wore.
    I happily did “grunt” work most of my working life, always turning down promotions. I finally (at age 44) landed in a job that pays well, engages the gray matter and is a service to the well being of man in general. Since it pays well, I have enough money to have a great shop and not worry if my designs ever sell. I think it’s referred to as ‘having it all’.

    P.S. Have you thought about embedding photos in the body of your blog? Maybe you have in earlier posts, I haven’t yet read them all.

  5. […] Wednesday Wisdom. Posted on April 15, 2008 by Doulos Christou This is a great piece by Gary Rogowski, a fantastic woodworker in the Northwest. It’s a good read for a number of reasons but especially because he uses the word parlous. Dodging the Bullet « The Northwest Woodworking Studio […]


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