≡ Menu

Part and Wholeness in the Wood Shop

In the recent blog entry I posted on saws it might be fun to amplify the central idea which was discussed. That was how do you make sense when there are so many different facts to consider. The world is awash in data. We double the amount of knowledge every few years or so and to some it seems like every few weeks. Now with the internet giving us access to knowledge from all over the earth, the task of making sense of it all is a bit daunting.

I was extremely fortunate to have been introduced to Vedic wisdom by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded the TM movement. In earlier blog posts I credited my starting the TM technique for my explosive increase in interest and capability in woodworking some 34 years ago. What I learned from Vedic wisdom, which is the oldest tradition of knowledge in the world today, is that if there are parts there has to be wholeness. Without the concept of wholeness the idea of parts would be meaningless. Parts only have meaning if understood in terms of being parts of a greater wholeness.

You have often heard that saying: “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” In some way wholeness is quite different than a collection of parts. It is a transcendental value. It can be described with terms like infinite and unbounded. Wholeness is infinite, more than the most, and that is a transcendental value. It goes beyond the boundaries of lists and collections. If it is a transcendental or non-material value, what is its practical value?

To answer this, let’s come back to the concrete example we discussed in the blog entry about saws. Think about a single saw. It has a motor, a mechanical drive to connect the saw to the blade. There is a way to adjust the depth of cut of the blade. There is some sort of table to hold the wood being cut. There needs to be some sort of stand to hold the saw and it may be mobile by adding a base with wheels. The motor is made on innumerable parts. There is an armature, windings of copper wire if it is an electric motor. There are switches to turn it off and on. If it is gas powered, then there is a piston, connecting rod, gas tank, oil reservoir and housing. Don’t forget that saw blades come in a dizzying array of widths, thicknesses, number of teeth per inch, arrangement of teeth, types of steel used in the teeth, the set or rake of the teeth, etc. The list could go on but you get the point.

Now consider how many different manufacturers of saws there are. Some are no longer made but still work today. Every manufacturer may make many different models of saws. There are different sizes and different price ranges.

Saws are designed for different purposes. Some cut thick wood, some thin wood, some cut straight cuts, others cut curved cuts. Some cut at right angles and others cut on a bevel.

What we have here is a point, in this case the saw, expanding to an infinity of parts. In the concept of a saw we see that it gives rise to innumerable parts with dizzying speed. How can we ever make sense of all the parts? We just get overwhelmed.

Yet we don’t need to know about all saws and we probably don’t need to know all about any particular saw. What we need is a wholeness point to begin. In my last blog post I tried to explain how my collection of saws allow me to take advantage of a valuable resource. namely, found wood. This is wood discarded by others as it has no value to them. Yet what I see is beautiful bowls and utensils hidden beneath the shabby exterior.

So my approach to saws starts from the wholeness point of converting found wood into wood I can use in my shop. The saw used first is the chain saw. This can cut big chunks of wood into more manageable size pieces which can be lifted without heavy equipment. It can also be used to cut rough dimensional lumber with the proper attachment or by freehand.

The next saw is the large bandsaw. This allows me to dimension the rough wood into more carefully dimensioned pieces and also allows me to cut curves. If I need to cut smaller radii then I use my smaller bandsaw. My table saw comes into play when I need precisely dimensioned wood for furniture or pieces for spindle turning when I make many copies of the same thing. If I have a very long plank that needs to be cut into shorter pieces, I use my cut off saw with its long table. If I need some very small parts then I may use my scroll saw which can cut thin wood into amazingly intricate and complex shapes.

So, all my saws play a role in leading me to the one goal of making use of found wood. Of course some of the same saws work fine on commercial dimensioned lumber. It is just that I rarely have occasion to buy any of that. Everything fits together nicely and nothing is redundant or unneeded. The parts make the wholeness of my woodworking goal.

Now, when I look for a saw, it has to fit into the wholeness of my shop goal. I don’t get confused about saws that don’t fulfill my specific purpose. I don’t need to check out every model and every manufacturer. I don’t have to have one of everything. I don’t have to have an infinitely large shop. It is big enough as it is, thank you.

So how do you figure out what is the wholeness part? The secret I found was to allow my attention to go inward. For that I have a technique which is the Transcendental Meditation program. I have leaned that at my source I am infinite and unbounded. I am made of wholeness. Everything I could ever want is there. As I regularly contact that field of wholeness I begin, over time, to bring that wholeness with me when I come back out into activity.

This gives me two fullnesses. It brings infinity out into the boundaries of specific parts. Now I can operate among all the parts without getting lost in the specific parts because I always have my eye on the wholeness or the infinite. This is the best of both worlds. I can operate in the parts but not get lost in them.

This ability to see wholeness while immersed in the parts can be developed by anyone. Even I learned how to do that. I just wish I had known how to do that when I was a medical student studying anatomy. Talk about being lost in the parts, that was the quintessential experience.

So, trying to operate without wholeness is to be equipped with only half of what you need. Perhaps this is why for so many, life is a struggle.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment