Lucas Weismann

On Forgiveness

This is a note that is 90% for myself and 10% for anyone else who wants to read my thoughts.  Don’t take the advice as being for anyone but from me to myself.  If you have ideas that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them.

 

After watching a buzzfeed video about – yes, that buzzfeed…- one of the Mengele twins and the power of forgiveness, I’ve been thinking about the idea of forgiveness.  What does it mean, when should we do it and for whom. I’ve come to the conclusion that forgiveness is essentially a selfish act.

To me forgiveness is the act of giving up your eye-for-an-eye right to retribution or revenge.  It’s giving up the idea that I get to use someone’s past as a trump card in future arguments. Not out of laziness or fear, but because of something calling me to let go.  

We all have people who we’ve wronged and people who have wronged us.  The degree to which you’ve been hurt may make letting go of that anger incredibly difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.  I remember reading about the idea of a teacher asking a student to hold a light weight at arm’s length and pointing out that it’s not just the weight of the object that makes it difficult to hold, but the length of time you’re required to hold it.

All of that anger and frustration, that hurt and hate, that justified scabby black poison we cling to as our right as survivors of past wrong.  That proof of the evil of others.  It poisons us far worse than it will ever poison them.  It cripples us in spirit and makes victims of the same wrong over and over again.  

Worse even, when we realize how many of the things we hold on to are our own choices.  Things we can’t forgive ourselves for.  Oh, and if you have nothin for which you need to forgive yourself A) you might be very, very young, B) you might be in denial, C) you might have done the hard work of forgiving yourself already.  If C, good for you!  Please share what you did.

In any event, the forgiveness we give ourselves and others is a selfish act because ultimately we don’t forgive people for the sake of their own souls, but for our own.  It’s a psychological ablution, an enema for the spirit.

When forgiving those who’ve done you evil, you take a stand and no longer let that part of your past control you.  

 

I can’t say I know what’s best for anyone but myself.  I know that giving up that poison is like giving up coffee or sugar.  It’s good for you, but oh, so hard.

For the sake of me (since I’m with me almost constantly), and my loved ones, I’m doing my best to forgive.  Which is not the same as doing my best to forget – perhaps I’ll have thoughts on that sometime soon.

New project. Picture frames.

When learning a craft, or setting a goal, it can be helpful to break down the process into several repeatable steps.  Practicing scales, arpeggios, chord changes and etc…  This is good, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying for the novice because it lacks the sense of achievement that you get from completing a project.  Say… learning a song.

This is one reason that in addition to the “hard work” portions of the process, many newcomers to the guitar will learn “Blackbird” by the Beatles.  This project will teach the student several skills- chord vocabulary, moving from position to position on the guitar, timing, among others.

As I make my way through down the path of becoming a woodworker (as an artist, not merely a hobbyist), I’ve been working to learn different steps.  Yes, I’ve practiced planing boards to create perfect paper-thin curls of wood, yes, I’ve milled up planks into boards of even thickness.  Here is my list and the order of projects I’ve added to my woodworking setlist.

Sanding and refinishing–  As a child, my grandfather took me and my cousin Rusty out to sand, refinish and black the metal parts of various tools his father left at the cabin.  It wasn’t very exciting at the beginning (we were hand sanding, no powertools needed), but by the end, we had restored some antiques and brought them to a beautiful working condition. *note: if you do this without asking, you may find you’ve reduced the value of someone’s antiques so please ask first if they’re not your own.

I definitely suggest taking something not too valuable, but well loved, sanding it and finishing it with some sort of beautiful finish like danish oil, tung oil or a wipe-on polyurethane (provided that’s appropriate to the intended use of the piece).

Monkey’s Fists–  While not strictly-speaking a woodworking project, my dad taught me to use a pocket knife to whittle a ball to use as a center around which to build the monkey’s fist. This taught me to think about oversizing the initial sculpt and then continuing to remove.  Learning to see what it will be when the not-ball portion is removed has helped in my ability to previsualize.round which

Presentation Boards– These are SO. MUCH. FUN. Not strictly-speaking cutting boards, the boards I make with my dad are made by jointing boards and then planing them to thickness before putting a bevel on the ends to match the feeling of the live edge.  After this point, the boards are sanded down to 220 grit and/or scraped with a furniture scraper before being finished with a food-safe oil coat.

Canoe Restoration– Once in awhile, you attack a project SO freaking out of your league that you have to get outside help.  Then, your outside help needs to get outside help.  This is basically what happened when my dad and I decided to restore our 1970s Tremblay canoe.  We did this with help from the generous guys over at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum.  Jamie in particular helped us make up techniques and taught us things about respecting the wood that has come in handy in nearly every project I’ve done since 2013.

Scarf Joints
mortise and tenon joints
steaming wood
shaping wood with an angle grinder
bandsaw skills
basic planing and scraping
So much more…

Most recently, in the shop with Dan Gremillion I learned to make picture frames. This was a blast and it’s a perfect outgrowth from what I’ve learned making slab tables (basically large presentation boards).

To make this one sing, we take our plank, joint it, rip it and plane it.  Then when we have nice square stock (a surprising amount of woodworking is about making nice square stock and then making itNOT square….), we rip out a section, miter it and glue it up.

Afterward, we cut grooves in the corners with a table saw jig and glue pieces of either matching or contrasting (I usually like contrasting) wood to create a stronger joint than a simple mitered butt joint (gluing the angled edges together) would provide.

Then we take a VERY sharp chisel and pare away (yes, the same pare as a paring knife, it’s like shaving, but thicker) the excess.

As usual, our final steps involve sanding to an appropriate silky smoothness and finishing with something like Tung Oil, Boiled Linseed Oil, or something similar.

The really cool thing once you get to this point in woodworking you can make a lot of things you’d want to.  A chair, that’s presentation boards with legs stuck on.  A tray?  That’s a picture frame with an extra groove to hold a panel of wood instead of glass.  A box, that’s a tray with a lid.

A dresser?  That’s a complicated picture frame with legs on, that has trays that hold your stuff built in.  See where I’m going?

In addition to loving the time you spend doing your art- if you’re not having fun being bad at it, you probably won’t have fun being good at it- you are building up a repertoire of things you can do.  Little successes that will build up confidence so that when you want to take on a scary task, you can look at it, see what it’s made of and realize you’re made of what it takes to accomplish your task.

What “songs” or “projects” should a beginner use if they want to learn your art?  What things can make them feel successful as they learn the riffs of the craft?

What is the Point of Teaching

Why the hell do I spend the effort teaching?  What do I hope my students will gain from it and what what do I gain from helping them to learn?

Why do I spend the effort teaching?

There are several reasons I suppose.  

1) I like people who are skilled and the confidence with which they can approach the world.

2) I like to share the experience of dance with someone who can understand music similarly to me.  After all, every class any teacher teaches on the subject of social dance for example, is how to dance with that particular teacher or teaching couple.

3) I like to see the inspiration in the student’s eyes as they realize they can do something that they couldn’t do before.  This is a big one.

What is it that my students are actually gaining from learning?  Well knowledge, for one thing.  Knowledge of a particular art.  This knowledge gained from disciplined practice for a long time is called Kung Fu in chinese.  Kung Fu isn’t necessarily anything to do with martial arts, though the most common way people think of the idea is a martial arts master.

One of my favorite philosophers and Kung Fu practitioners Bruce Lee said that “all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge.”  If I follow that line of thinking, what we do when we teach, is to teach our students about themselves by taking them along the path of discipline we’ve used to discover who we are.  

As the student learns or doesn’t, we gain further insight into who we are and so, achieve greater self-knowledge as teachers.  

There is never a teacher who is not first a student, nor a student who is not a teacher.  The best teaching relationships are those with greatest discipline, though not necessarily those that are most serious or those that push the hardest.

The best teaching unlocks the potential of student and teacher and helps to discover and grow the joy of the art (no matter the specifics of the art) in both.  This means that the best students and teachers are combinations that are made based on the personalities of each as well as the art in question.

If you are teaching something like medicine or hang gliding, where lives may be lost, perhaps a more serious approach is warranted.  If you are teaching something that is difficult, but not life-threatening or inherently risky, perhaps a lighter touch can be used.

There are different ways to achieve the same end, and as with raising children, no approach works perfectly with everyone.

Meditations 3 – Determination

A quote about determination I remember from wrestling:

The point is no to go until you can go no further. The point is to keep going while you can go no further.

This has been true so often for me.  I also realize that my physical ability usually outstrips my mental fortitude.

Over the last few years, there are ways that I’ve allowed mental lassitude to become a norm for me. Usually, by not exerting myself enough physically or testing myself and my actual limitations.

From today, I’m reinstating my habit of saying that “I’m choosing X over my health, or want (some short-term happiness) more than (some long term gain).

Last time I did this, I lost 30 lbs of fat and got back in shape. Looking forward to seeing what it does this time.


Where are the areas in your life that need shoring up?  The areas of slack that you’ve allowed to come into your life?  The areas where you’ve forgotten to do your maintenance?

What would your life be like if you chose them instead of the easy things?  What if you made what you say you want a priority in what you do?

What would you do next?

An Open Letter.

Dear Non-religious people,

Realize that religious people accept certain sources as credible above all reason. Literally. Therefore, if engaging with them, please seek to understand their point of view and be educated, using their own religious material to prove your point.

Otherwise, they’ll just use “but my holy book says…” and you’re nowhere.

——

Dear religious people,

non-religious people don’t see your holy books and divine inspiration, so just like when witnessing to someone of a different faith, find common ground that doesn’t rely on “First you must believe in my religion.”

Otherwise, they will rightly point out that your evidence doesn’t make sense, because they’re not agreed-upon premises and so- don’t fit into a productive discussion.

—-

Dear everyone

If you want to make progress in a discussion, you must first understand the person whom you are trying to persuade of your point of view. Otherwise, you don’t have a good starting point and will end up frustrated.

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. These techniques are ESPECIALLY important when discussing the BIG issues that matter to you.

Sincerely,

One slightly weird dude, who’s been thinking too much lately.

An Ode to Jake.

Dad and me.Many of you know how great my dad Jake​ is. For those who don’t, you’re missing out. I would love to hear anyone’s best “Jake” story. Because there are a million of them, and I would do him a disservice to pick just one.

 

 

In the meantime:

Dad,

Thank you for being the guy who gave me my first pocket knife, hatchet, canoe paddle and being the one who taught me how to use them.

For being the guy who taught me the meaning of the phrase “If you knew wrestling, you wouldn’t get into this situation.”

For quitting jobs with high pay to take lower paying jobs that allowed you to come to my wrestling meets and then going on to rock those industries and become the best at that.

He plays the bluesYou are the reason I know “That which one man can do, another can do.”

Thank you for being the dad all our friends wished was their dad growing up.

Luke

A lesson I relearn every few years. (Needs Refinement)

Whether in Martial Arts or Dance or Life, I’m finding that I should not seek a system or a code.  These are inflexible.

Often there are simple ideas that started them, but they were supple as a result.  The situations were able to be shaped as their situation demanded.

Once you adopt a code, it’s like covering yourself in clay or mud.  In time, it may armor you a bit until it dries out or crystalizes.

Then it becomes brittle and will crack under strain, leaving you exposed.

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Why Are You Holding Back?

A question from George Balanchine was shared with me on Facebook:

Why Are You Holding Back?

Fear and Laziness generally… Most of the time I find myself holding back, it’s either eventually found to be fear or laziness.

Overcoming the inertia of fear makes me feel powerful in a way nothing else can.

Overcoming the inertia of laziness makes you feel useful, like you’re doing something worthwhile.

Find your inner catalyst and go out there and be yourself. Bigger and badder and better than you ever have before. Let it fill you and radiate into your surroundings and you might even inspire others to do the same.

That’s where small victories turn into big ones.  It’s where Life gets exciting!

RE: Henry Rollins and Anger

One of my favorite current thinkers is former frontman for the band Black Flagg. He’s humble, he’s enlightened and he’s angry. He has a fury that drives him to get up on stage and be big and bombastic in front of crowds night after night.

He finds ways of saying things that make me question what I think I know, connects with the inner bullied-kid in me and hits my anti-authoritarian streak hard. In many ways, he’s like a less-bitter more down-to-earth George Carlin.

And I get it. I am able to channel anger through him that I can’t seem to access on my own.

That’s what I’m having a hard time with. My own lack of anger.

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RE: Having conversations about feminISM, socialISM, capitalISM, conservatISM, racISM, sexISM and etc…

Recently on a Facebook group I sometimes read, someone asked a question about people feeling fatigue talking about race-, sex-, femin- and may other isms that they are passionate about.  Specifically how to approach people about a topic you’re passionate about, but might be tiring or a turn-off for them.

This was my reply:

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