Good, Safe Carpentry Work Demands That We be Presentcomments (7) July 31st, 2011 in Blogs
CARPENTRY IS MEDITATION
I once worked in the 1950s with a framing carpenter, Paul, who taught me a real-life lesson. We were partners working as piece workers cutting rafters, building, and sheathing roofs. In warm So. Calif. we started work at 7 a.m. Around 10:00 in the morning, Paul would finally wake up. Until then he was dangerous to be around--“unsafe at any speed.” Simply put, he was there with his body, but his mind was elsewhere. Twice he dropped a rafter on my right foot breaking one of my toes each time. To protect myself, I used to swing a long 2x4 around early on in the day and try to whack him in the shins to wake him up. It was a case of either him or me. Finally, one morning it happened. We were sheathing a roof and he, with his mind elsewhere, cut a huge gash in his forearm with a circular saw. This time it was him not me. The muscle was gaping open spurting blood. I ripped a piece of cloth from my shirt, put a tourniquet on his arm, got him down from the roof, and drove him to an emergency room. That was the last time I saw Paul. I heard later that he joined the Fire Department. I wished them well.
Mindfulness = safety
Being on a construction site, or even in a shop, is often dangerous. As framers, we work around small overhead cranes carrying heavy loads, forklifts, and all kinds of power equipment like saws, routers, and pneumatic nail guns. In order to avoid getting injured, carpenters need to be mentally present all day long---mindful of what we are doing. The more we can be present, the safer the job will be for ourselves and fellow workers. I can say with assurance that every time I have been hurt at work it was because my mind was elsewhere.
Yes, more than once, I have been hurt on a job site and every time it happened my mind was elsewhere. It can happen like this---One day I was cutting rafter tails to length up on a two story apartment building. Someone called my name from across the building. Instead of being mindful of what I was doing and finishing the cut, I looked up, and the circular saw dropped into my shoe laying open a gash in my poor toe. The MD put a few stitches to seal off the cut, but I couldn’t get him to work on my slashed open boot.
I taught carpentry in a community college for years. A teaching partner, using a jointer and talking to students, forgot to lift his middle finger when finishing the cut on a piece of wood. Not a good finger to mess with. To this day he walks around with one less finger nail.
So that’s why I say that Carpentry IS Meditation. By meditation I mean being aware of what we are doing and where we are. Our mind is joined with our body in the present moment. We can spend our time wandering around our past lives or thinking about our future, but the present moment is really all we will ever have, no?
posted in: Blogs, safety
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