Mere Ciphers and Not Men

“Given the teeming riches of the whole earth to play with, brought to us by the modern enterprise of science and commerce, we tend to leave neglected the possibilities of our own hands and brains. It is so easy not to use them when so much is done for us. But the more we develop our own powers of doing and creating, of training our hands and our minds, the more sturdily do we set our faces against being mere ciphers and not men.

“We may not have a success that can be measured in terms of money, but we shall find our own fulfillment in terms of living.”

— The Woodworker, Chips from the Chisel, 1937, page 255

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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15 Responses to Mere Ciphers and Not Men

  1. nickgibbs says:

    Good for you, Chris, in searching for the best bits of Woodworker magazine. It was a great publication once, providing an essential service for people who really needed to make things. It was an ok magazine when I was editing it in the late 1980s, and I’ve wondered, guiltily, if my launch of Good Woodworking in 1992 wasn’t the nail that marked its terminal decline. It battles on, but nothing like in the form it once was in the heydays of Charles Hayward etc…, and it is good to know that its memory might be saved by your work. I’m sure you’re finding valuable stuff that woodworkers worldwide will appreciate.

  2. What a quote. An expression of thought that is priceless.

    another one I hang onto- “The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.” -Tony Konovaloff

  3. shavemaker says:

    Who is John Galt?

    • RobbL says:

      Who cares? Don’t know about you but I come here to read about working wood not repeat utopian tropes like some kind of bubble-gum mantra.

      • Scott S. says:

        And that is fine. I’m not going to leap to the defense of Chris; he can take care of himself.

        But I am going raise the point of why does a publishing business need to be pigeonholed into a singular realm of human interest? Fundamentally, Chris (and co.) does not make money by woodworking. I’m quite willing to bet that he has sold exponentially more books about tool chests than actual tool chests.

        “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” –The Bard

    • James McCoy says:

      Read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ann Rand. He’s the hero but not the protagonist.

      • shavemaker says:

        Yup, you got it. In a time and place where they lost the value of the individual’s contributions and creations as a part measure of his or her own happiness and worth, the mysterious John Galt was the lone voice speaking freedom from the mass-driven malaise. Then the question became their subversive (dare I say anarchistic?) call to arms, “Who is John Galt?” I think we are now in such a time and place.

      • RobbL says:

        yes Ann Rand: the bubble-gum flavor of the month

  4. Mike says:

    Similar quote that I love:
    Don’t use money to measure your wealth……………

  5. ecrusch says:

    Amen to every last word of that quote.
    And RobbL, eat a bran muffin dude. Everything’ll be alright.

  6. Scott S. says:

    I will offer a modern analog from the computer field: I can replace you with a very tiny shell script.

  7. John says:

    “We may not have a success that can be measured in terms of money, but we shall find our own fulfillment in terms of living.”

    Powerful quote. When we work with wood it is an expression of who we are and what we value.

  8. BikerDad says:

    A fine sentiment that I strive to embrace, although I would much prefer to be in the position of being able to include money in the measure of my wealth.

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