This morning about 4 a.m. I sat bolt upright in bed when the bells at the Niederaltaich Abbey began making an end-of-the-world clanging. Instead of cursing, however, I laid back and felt a small measure of solidarity with the noisemakers.
One of the things I love about teaching (or assisting a teacher) is listening to the students discuss how they accumulate woodworking knowledge. During the last few years of careful listening, I can see how I – as a communicator – am becoming obsolete.
This is not a complaint. I welcome my obsolescence and am happy to stare at it in the face over a beer.
For now, the world belongs to the YouTube woodworker. Advertisers – even car companies – are pouring money into the sector. More important, my students’ conversations revolve around the personalities, projects and exploits of the YouTubers.
This is not a complaint. Maintaining a YouTube channel is damn hard work. Finding an audience has always been the key to surviving in the media profession. And I’ve never chased advertising dollars.
Video is not for me. For me, the best way to learn woodworking is through print and in person. Video bores me to tears. (Yes, I’ve done it. I hated it. I did it to please people I like – not myself.) My brain sees video as inefficient. “Skipping to the good parts” never works. So I have concluded that I have a fundamental disconnect. I would rather read a book, draw on a sheet of paper or go to the dentist than watch someone on my phone build something.
It might have something to do with the way I view sports. I love to play. I hate to watch.
All this is to say that I can feel myself hunkering down for a long winter. Print is – for the most part – in decline. I refuse to give up on it. In fact, I have structured my life so that even if print is flushed down the toilet, processed at a waste treatment plant and then squirted out at some sausage plant in New Jersey, you can’t put me out of business.
My plan is to make woodworking books until I die. Our audience might defect to the short-shorts and man-bun dancing monkeys, but I’ve decided to let the people in 50 or 60 years decide if John and I are doing the right thing.
After you’re worm food and cannot rise to your own defense, that’s the true test.
This idea saturates me here at Niederaltaich Abbey, where I’m teaching woodworking for the next seven days. For the most part, the world has left the monks here behind. And they live a life that is entrenched in an older way.
Brown robes are not my thing (my color analyst says I’m a winter), but yeah, I feel it. Especially at 4 a.m.
— Christopher Schwarz