In these latter days of war it is sometimes difficult to hold firmly to the vision that was ours in times of peace. We may be craftsmen who once had high standards of accomplishment which the rush and tear of wartime production, or lack of proper materials, have insensibly lowered; or we may simply be amateurs suffering from fatigue and scant leisure who have lost our one-time zest for creative work. Creation implies effort, and effort—whether of body or brain, or both—is not always an easy thing to produce when both are wearied. It could make things easier if we could recapture the vision, if we could consider anew the point of honour which existed among older craftsmen almost as though it were a natural law. A many might only be making a chair rung; if it fell short of his best the customer might never know, but he, the maker, would know and feel no satisfaction in his work.
But the attitude of mind which can be sensitive to our own shortcomings must needs be sensitive to perfection everywhere. That is another of our difficulties and dangers at the present time. When there is so much destruction wherever one looks, one’s finer senses are apt to become dulled. Even to lose hope is to let something slip which needs cherishing. Hope and vision cannot be separated, and the one will depend upon the other in the post-war world. But how are we to keep them alive? To do so we need to be able to refresh our minds and give them new courage and stimulus; and it is by contact with lovely things, either of the hands or the spirit, that this is best done. It has been no mean deprivation of the war years for people living in towns that they no longer have contact with the many beautiful things in our museums and picture galleries which have been sent away for safety. Until the time comes when they will be brought out of their hiding places, books are our best substitute ….
— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1945, excerpted from “Honest Labour“
7 thoughts on “Point of Honour”
How much we need these words in these times of Covid and social discord.
This eloquence beautifully verifies that Mr. Hayward was as fine a craftsman with words as he was with tools. Would that we all should strive for such clarity and inspiration.
I just read a passage in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, about receiving an undue award – similar thing. Nothing is as good as being able to judge one’s own work as the best we are able to do – whatever best that may be.
I’m also reminded that many of these artifacts hidden throughout the war are still coming back into public life …
From my own experience, the undue award is similar, but harder to deal with in a way. Hayward was clearly talking about judging your own work, and striving for your own mastery. In contrast, there were awards I received while in uniform that had to meet such a low bar… but it was on an institutional level. I got written up and lost rank several times, but still got a good conduct medal.
I know when I’m satisfied with my own work. But it’s hard to fight against the creeping influence of an institution that sets the bar so low that you have to do serious damage avoid being recognized for ‘good service.’
So timely. I have been wondering about my own piss-poor attitude lately, and have come to some similar thoughts, though not so thoroughly fleshed out. Beautiful and helpful words. Thank you.
This reads like the best poetry. Bring back beautiful phrasing with words like “honor” in the midst! 👌
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