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Contemplative Leadership


Wisdom Of Our Hands

Updated: Mar 17

"I recently visited Arkansas with my wife who was attending a conference at the University of Arkansas. We flew into Little Rock a few days before the event and visited the Clinton Library, which truly inspired us. After, we went to Eureka Springs, located in the Ozark Mountains, and then to the Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art, in Bentonville. Alice Walton of the Walmart Foundation founded Crystal Bridges. Flowering dogwood trees graced us the whole way.

Big Red Lens, Frederick Eversley, Crystal Bridges

Eureka Springs is listed in the National Register for Historic Places and was recognized for healing powers before European settlements. I came across a book titled “The Wisdom of Our Hands,” authored by Doug Stowe, a local woodworking craftsman and educator.

From his life experiences as a woodworker, Stowe believes too many people are lost in a world of constant abstraction—immersed in their heads and screens. He describes a deeper wisdom gained working with his hands, which he believes is a gift we all can find.

A quote he shares within his book expresses this wisdom:

“Some of us long to have at least something, somewhere, which will give us harmony and a sense of durability—I won't say permanence, but durability—things that, through the years, become more and more beautiful, things we can leave to our children.”

It's not my intention to appropriate the significance of working with our hands. However, I strongly believe that the philosophy behind this practice can be applied to all aspects of human life, including our physical and mental health and our spiritual growth. I see possibilities inherent in what we do in creating beauty that stretches across generations.

Stowe speaks of humility in his work, stating: “There is no more important attribute (than humility) through which we engage others or to engage life. Humility is like the glass half full waiting to be topped over by fresh learning and new relationships with an ever-expanding sense of the wholeness of life.”

Flowering Dogwood, Crystal Bridges

One insight from Stowe has been challenging for me. To paraphrase Stowe, “The wide range of life experiences makes it difficult to master any. Each has the potential to link us to the broad expanse of human culture. It will be better, though, to choose one that has the strongest personal appeal as the primary focus.”  I am so guilty, but as my life continues, I am grateful to begin realizing this wisdom.

Stowe's philosophy emphasizes the significance of life-long learning and the importance of sharing and teaching what we learn. He believes that we must pass on our knowledge and wisdom to others. He says, "We have a responsibility to teach each other what we know." Sharing the knowledge and wisdom gained from our experiences is vital for building a solid community.

Reflecting on the "wisdom of his hands" and the temptation, if not ability to mass produce, he comments that we need not compete with the perfection of the machine world … as we may be ill-suited to dwell in a place in which there is little spirit of wilderness and humanity.

As a final note, Stowe created seven guidelines for his work and life. His seventh reads:  "Through creating useful beauty to offer homage to the spirit of the trees that have taken part in his work."

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13 Mar

Nice thoughts....

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