A Crafted Life

“You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.”
Frank Zappa

A Crafted Life

It is an interesting question; can your life be crafted? This would suggest that you have some control over your life and circumstances. Really, though, how would you get there? Our first thought is that it might be continually crafting rather than done with crafted.

To craft anything requires technique. To make an omelet, you have to chop an onion. And, there is a right way to chop onions. You could say it doesn’t matter but it does. When it comes to food, I fear that our Marie Calendar Lasagna has become the standard when we can enjoy so much more.

The first thought of technique for life is to draw from the standards. Maybe the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. But, not everyone wants to live that way. People often think, “do unto others before they do it to you”.

Maybe a crafted life depends on our desires of who we want to be. There are a lot of choices; power, money, happiness, security, feared, influence, popular or even solitary. I don’t think anyone chooses victim, abused, poor, unloved or bitter: yet it would seem that many have ended up there and so, we can imagine that those people did not craft their lives.

When it comes to decisions, Doubt can make us frozen like a deer in the headlights. Standing like that, unable to move, waiting for some signal or nudge or a change in the breeze to give you direction makes it not your choice. The future is so uncertain that it feels like a gamble to invest time and effort into anything; life is hard, change will happen, your job could be replaced with some software, an earthquake might wipe us out.

Looking ahead, we might have a goal, “dentist by age 30, wife, three kids, a house”. How quickly we start to amend that to, “a good dentist, a wife who loves me, three healthy kids, a good neighborhood”. Then to, “a productive and fulfilling service, a partnership for life, three children who will see a better world, the planet is a good place to live”.

Where you are right now is your crafted life. You used learned techniques to get there. Maybe you learned from your father to belittle your wife, to mock her and doubt her; maybe you are skilled in your technique. Maybe your crafted life is an unhappy marriage. We have to question everything. If we are not consciously applying a learned technique then our crafted life will be sloppy and the results will be what they turned out to be; maybe a funky looking cake that tastes great but maybe not — do you really want to take a chance on your own life?

Some of this stuff is how we perceive ourselves. My younger sister, some years ago, put together a slideshow of photos from our childhood and set it to music. I was shocked to see my young self smiling, laughing and playing. I think of myself as solemn and introspective, worrying over problems. I’m not that at all! Looking through old photos finds me a cheerful guy who likes people. How you perceive yourself, how you think of who you are might not be true — you might be happier than you think you are. Imagine that!

Ben Franklin led a crafted life. He explained his technique in writing and with little reminders like “an early bird catches the worm”. He was beloved, an inventor, a diplomat, he drank wine and got laid … a lot. Maybe that would be a good model to follow. He practiced his technique his whole life, he never said, “I got this down”.

Self Help books are only as good as those who apply the help. Carnegie spelled out his technique of influencing people; if that is your goal, then make that book your Bible. They are not tricks but skills learned, technique! You go into the studio every day to practice technique.

I fear that we imagine a crafted life as something that we arrive at. Or that we reach contentment and happiness as a revelation or a pivotal moment in one’s life instead of living a measured life with skill, skills learned and applied rather than careening through life as if there were an invisible plan already mapped out for you. God honors free will, you have to be willing to live your life.

Remember, the saints were saints because they went out and worked with people. A crafted life almost always involves your standing with other people, how you are perceived and how you perceive those around you; loved ones or sheep to be shorn: make it a conscious choice to be who you are.

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