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The Wound Man from Hans von Gersdorff's Feldbuch der Wundarznei (1530)
"We were walking wounded when we began this effort."

I had finally decided that I had studied enough. I had either learned what I needed to understand to mount the new door lockset or I had not, but I would never confirm whether I had or hadn't without trying to mount it. I was deepening the edge plate's inset when the chisel slipped and found my finger, producing a clean stab wound that bled profusely. Two things can be done profusely, I figure, cursing and bleeding. I rushed as best I could through the buzzing Refurbishment activity to the main floor bathroom where I had presciently packed in a supply of bandages. The Muse, up from her basement Zoom Lair for a bite of lunch, offered to help me stick on the bandage. I decided that I needed a lunch break then, too, so I moped around feeling stupid for a half hour before resuming my interrupted attempt at mounting that new lockset. Nothing I'd found in my search for examples of how to accomplish this task had prepared me for StabWounds. I had let down my guard and gone without gloves, a sure sign of my inexperience. I was learning, though, as evidenced by the fresh bandage on one of my two and a half typing fingers. I'm finding it difficult to type this story as a result.

I always was a noisy learner.
I was the guy nobody else in class wanted to share a terminal with because I was the most likely to crash the computer while attempting to finish an assignment. I was the one with the apparently irrelevant question that seemed so very important to me. I was the one who begrudgingly accepted that I didn't need an answer to that question in order to complete the assignment, but I still wondered. Learning tended to be a painful, anything but pleasurable experience. It seemed an intrusive assault. I worked harder to avoid it than embrace it. It felt like StabWounds, upsetting some balance, draining essence. It just seemed dangerous. Not that I favor ignorance, but I despise what passes for learning: the classes, the coerced assignments, the tests, the assessments assigning values and calculating worth, the harsh judgements. I preferred my sublime state of ignorance to the punishing process of "learning." I learned in school to strongly prefer the StabWounds I'd inflict upon myself to the StabWounds learning to avoid self-inflicted StabWounds produced.

We don't so much not know how to learn, but we certainly don't know very much about teaching, or don't seem to. We're still mostly in that primitive state where someone explains or directs the student to independently read about a subject. The result produces knowledge about, which tends to misrepresent facility and favor theory. The theory of mounting a lockset never mounted a lockset. Filled with knowledge about the job, I knew nothing about how to perform it. Performance tends to require on-the-job experience, perhaps informed by theory, but the theory of this task had reduced the dangerous parts to simple knowns. It said, "Deepen out the space for the edge plate," without mentioning the real danger of producing a StabWound in the process. It also mentioned employing a router, which I would never do. I'm no fool! A chisel might produce a StabWound. Routers take off fingers.

I didn't suspect that mounting the lockset on that first refurbished door would take four days. It has so far and I'm not through the ordeal yet. Mounting doors might be more complicated than refurbishing them, since mounting involves immersing in three full dimensions. This door was no longer square. Its leading edge beveled at least an eighth of an inch, which left the lock not quite reaching the strike plate. Kurt Our Painter had mentioned a little-known technique for strategically bending the hinge teeth to compensate for certain door face shortcomings, and this proved to be a perfect example of when that technique's needed. Completed, the Striker finally caught, but the brass face plates didn't quite cover up the former lockset's hole. Putty's curing overnight. In the morning, I can sand down that patch, paint it to match the rest of the door, then, once that touch up's dry, I might (I said might) finally finish mounting that door and its sparkling new lockset. I could also produce another StabWound.

What will I have learned? I've learned that chisels produce clean stab wounds. I'm reminded that learning does, too, and that it's virtually always true, at least for me, that there's always something I cannot see stalking me. Learning's dangerous business. I asked Our Finish Carpenter Joel, as he trimmed baseboards by balancing them on his boot while cutting them with his hand-held circular saw if he didn't know any other way to trim his toenails. We have been stunningly cavalier in our refurbishing. Risking more than such simple work should require. Kurt Our Painter's knees started troubling him after weeks spent working on our grand staircase railing. Joel blew out one knee years ago and suffers from some loss of hearing. We were walking wounded when we began this effort. Once finished, we can reward ourselves with fresh purple hearts, I guess.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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