I was out walking yesterday with Jon and we were talking about great forms of exercise. I told him that there is a part of me that really misses hard work. Like wood chopping with an ax. “Oh yeah!” He said. “Do you know how many calories you burn doing that?” This morning I’m thinking about it again and, after a hard day’s work in our community kitchen, cooking for a few hundred people, I’m remembering what wood chopping really looked like the few times I did it. If I had to pick just one thing I really thank my dad for it’s instilling in me a hard work ethic. I remember him trying to teach me the proper way to use a felling ax—in the yard next to our house in the city! Neither of us were very good at it, but it was fun. I must have been eleven or twelve, my son’s age now. I remember blisters that never quite became callouses, until I started working in sheet metal. Then it was severe cuts, stitches and burns. And now it is all just memories. My hands are turning that ghastly pale pasty white color peculiar to musicians and typists.
I found this cool online book on the history and methodology of axes on the federal highway department’s website. An Ax to Grind: A Practical Ax Manual. Poring over this stuff reminds me that words and type and ideas are things, yes, important things, but they create the illusion of action. My body remains largely inert. This has so many applications. I for one am sick to death of the truth in all its forms without any intention toward action. Theories are important, for what they are. We must also remember what they are not. Next time I glory in the idea of doing, somebody please stop me and say, “Stop talking, start chopping!”