The struggle is now-my friend

by Jay Van Arsdale (May 2023)

Life offers many paths of adventure. Some or most end up as entertaining distractions or worse. Others offer activities opening up new horizons and life-changing challenges – ways to working and experiencing deeper modes of learning- offering challenges that require clearing our awareness with fuller engagements of ones curiosity, with endless opportunities to develop the discipline needed to follow personal insights to their completion.

This discipline to do this work is formed by repetition and the focused insights curiosity draws into ones character. The growth of this true engagement supports the development that sooner or later becomes ones own.

For me, this first occurred when the smiling face of a traditional ‘daiku’-Makoto Imai- smiled my way. I grew up with craftsmen as my family tradition, so I could recognize the high quality of work I was observing and the graceful practicality of his seamless working process. I went to college, a couple of times, and learned many facts about things -that we ‘learned’ and were tested on – and mostly left behind.

Luckily serendipity awakens us to other unexpected activities our curiosity can pursue. I profoundly recognized a direction my interests and life’s work could follow. By just observing a traditional ‘daiku’ working, so gracefully and with easy economy of every effort with his simple looking hand tools.

Jay Van Arsdale

Jay Van Arsdale

In the calm silence between the breath of saw strokes, between hammer blows, I came to realize how I could build my own happy place. This gave me inklings for how

I might use this platform for creating an honest lifestyle that connected back to the practical work formed by centuries of inspiring craftsmanship. Witnessing this level of applied skillfulness only encouraged my training as a sculptor to do work- needing no further explanation. (which always seemed part of educated ‘learning’.)

What I and others experienced was nonverbal direct observation- a sort of insight- some words might have helped- but that wasn’t really necessary or possible because of lack of language skills at that time.

I have continued to pursue and share this mode of learning with my students- but learning in the Western style today involves other reinforcements unavailable in the long past- as so much more is written and documented on video-available continuously on line.

All this is valuable and important- but if its not actualized by doing the work – it doesn’t make you a craftsperson- only a theoretical speculator…from the neck up.

Make no mistake, this is all good, but nothing surpasses working and observing how those who know more- from proper training and prepared experience- actually carry out their intentions. Realize that for centuries- this knowledge has been passed on only, by this face to face teaching- not educated by book learning.

Traditionally all crafts everywhere were learned and passed on this way. Finding those who maintain and are the true bearers- and willing to share this treasury is the true motherlode. They deserve our recognition and gratitude for preserving this dedication to old school values and the light they bring with this living tradition.

Our appreciation and admiration for the fruits of their journey inspires us to absorb this deep dedication into our own work- and more importantly into the values we come to cherish in supporting our own lives and community.

In recent years some of those old school old guard have started to see the end of their journey with us…leaving this living tradition in our hands.

Our gratitude for their support should not go unnoticed or remain unsaid -before it’s too late.

The struggle-is now my friend.

jva 5/23