The Craftsman asks us to craft our lives with careful attention to detail and not merely float through them.
Archetypes are recurrent symbols that offer spiritual advice to men and women as we travel the journey of life. This is the sixth in a 12-part series, in which this ancient wisdom is made relevant both to ecumenical (book) religions and to the non-spiritual as well through real life examples and everyday application.
While I highly encourage a spiritual path, as it feeds the soul, this wisdom will resonate regardless because it is within our bones and sinew as men. Twelve is a very significant number in spiritual circles. There are 12 months, 12 signs of the Zodiac, Jesus had 12 disciples, 12 indicates a complete cycle.
As we complete our cycle through the archetypes, we will experience the ancient wisdom offered to us around manhood. Whether you are gay, straight, bi, curious, confused, trans, married, unattached, looking, or fearful, this wisdom has the power to meet you where you are and help you experience the slice of divine that is you, as a man.
Who is the Craftsman?
This archetype is very familiar in our society. The Craftsman is a maker and doer. He is a discoverer of items, processes, and objects. He has an uncanny ability to get things done. He also creates things that we can use. In years past, this manly concept has been expressed by men who run apothecaries, who work as artisans in talents ranging from construction trades to leather and jewelry, who run/supply junkyards, and who create found object art. There are so many ways the Craftsman invites us to manifest objects physically into our world.
Men are unique creators in this respect, and no archetype makes that more apparent than the archetype of the Craftsman. It is a wonder to watch a construction crew build a house or for a tradesman to quickly and easily perform his highly skilled task. Sometimes, it’s like magic. To see a pile of raw materials turn into a finished product is a true delight, and the best part is that you can experience that same delight in your own home. It can add to your spiritual or psychological development and healing.
The Craftsman teaches an ability that is sometimes hard to find in modern society: follow-through. This principle is at the core of the Craftsman. No crafting project will complete itself. You have to be able to enjoy the easy parts, power through the difficult parts, or even reach out for help, if needed, to bring out the finished product. This is something unique to this archetype. Many of the other archetypes don’t necessarily need follow-through. Their process completes itself or the concept is an essential one, but this one is unique in that will-power is a necessary part of the equation to really embody the Craftsman. This is one of the few times in your life when extraordinary efforts of will-power are helpful. Other archetypes discussed like The Lover and The Destroyer do not need will-power and in the face of The Lover, will-power can be very detrimental. The Craftsman is like his friend The Warrior. These archetypes invite us to make a decision to do something and actually do it to the best of our abilities.
Attention to Detail
The Craftsman is skilled, he has attention to detail and he is careful to bring out the best in his materials. The Craftsman creates something that is high-quality, unique, and personal. Everything he touches in the final product bears his personal signature. Men craft plenty of things. One of the more popular skilled crafts right now are project cars. If you are rebuilding a classic car or changing a car from regular gas to biodiesel, the final result is quite wonderful, but the overall picture is far greater than that. It is the process and journey of looking for the parts, learning how to do different things, and then ultimately creating your new-to-you car. I like to think of the Craftsman and the Greenman as very similar men because they both make things, they are both ideas of deep connection, and they are collaborative in a certain sense.
The most important lesson of the Craftsman is that of process. Life is a process, a journey. It is an oft-repeated trope but the truth of it is not diminished. The destination of life is passing over to the other side; the final product is rather anti-climatic. The key then is, to make the way you get to the end as exciting, fulfilling and interesting as possible. The Craftsman asks us to craft our lives with careful attention to detail and not merely float through them.
I’m a terrible artist. As a writer I do pretty well, but as a visual artist I’m fairly limited to abstract things. I like to use paint in layers to create texture on things, and I like to use my fingers and brushes to create interesting abstract patterns and colors. I’ve created small drawings and done up everything from beer bottles to doorways. There is no greater feeling of satisfaction than to have learned what I’ve learned about paint and what I’ve learned about the process of completing something. Some projects I can finish in a weekend and others take a long time. But once I’ve completed it, I know that I’ve learned a few things about myself and I’ve probably solved a problem or two in my own life. Writing this makes me want to get painting right now! But the Craftsman isn’t done yet.
The Craftsman in Your Spiritual Practice
Unlike simply sitting and visualizing or exploring your thoughts, the Craftsman calls for active meditation. When you are crafting, you are using a various regions of the brain. Often that can lead to a great breakthrough at a personal level. Guys who grew up with a father in the garage doing something after a hard day will know this to be true. It seems like anything can be fixed while building something, cleaning something or just fiddling around with something on the workbench.
We have great examples of this in our culture like the Whirling Dervishes of Sufi mysticism or the walking meditations practiced by orders of certain monks for the past 1000 years. These forms of meditation take advantage of the body and work with the movement of our bodies while also being in the centered and mindful state that is meditation. The next time something around the house needs fixing, don’t look at it as a chore, but as meditation.
Embodying The Craftsman
Pick your hobby or discipline
The value of a hobby cannot be understated, as much is to be learned by actually practicing a craft, hobby or discipline. From attention to detail to principles of discipline, practicing something regularly and slowly improving at it over time is very valuable. Using craft and making things with your hands or your mind requires great discipline and that is one of the secrets of the Craftsman. You can pick from wood, metal, and glass to music or art. Anything that requires your attention for extended periods of time but that also offers a great reward. The regular practice will make it easier to create a new habit and when you complete the project the confidence boost will affect every area of your life. The ability to invoke self-discipline in a task and see it through to success or failure is an important manly skill. When you can hold up something that you made with your own hands that bears your unique mark, there is not better feeling.
Bring out the best in your partner
One of the great masterpieces of your life will be the wonderful person that you will cause your partner to become in the context of this relationship. In this way, not only do you shape them, but in a relationship the Craftsman is also shaped by his creation. That means that as you work, you become better. Don’t resist this.
In order to create your relationship as a masterwork, you have to be the best that you can be, as a person, then, in your personal development as a man, bring out the best in them. That is the experience of the Craftsman. Rather than letting anger and resentment fester, use those materials for a stronger relationship with your partner. This will require an attention to the details of their needs both in the bedroom and outside of it as well as the staying-power needed to work through a disagreement. In this way, we return to powerful lesson the Craftsman teaches about appreciating process.
Crafting your children
Many studies show that everything our children learn about life we’ve taught them by age seven, and that they remain deeply affected by what was going on when they were age ten. Much like any other crafting project, it is the early stages that set the tone for the remainder of the project. Children are similar in this way. What occurs in their early formative years will be the basis on which the rest of their lives will be based.
The idea of crafting—attention to detail and mindful creation—are especially important. The experiences, treatment, rules, habits, and discipline that are instituted will help your children for the rest of their lives. How can you craft your children everyday? Create for them the experiences, the lessons, and the learning that will help them for a lifetime of experiences and problems. Like a great piece of clothing or a well-crafted item, when something is well-made, it can handle any problem.
Image credit: Dave Catchpole/flickr