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Just One Kind Favor

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I have just been out in my shop where I build custom furniture. On my workbench is the most beautiful piece that I’ve ever created. When it’s finished I’ll write a short piece and show you what it looks like. As I looked the table over and ran my hands over its surface, my mind became flooded with the things I wanted to say. As much as I want to dive into putting the last coats of oil on the deep red cherry wood and get it to the local gallery, I have to stop and finally write something to post.

It’s been a while since I last wrote. I have had many things to consider as well as business to take care of. I spent the last week at my mother’s place in the San Francisco Bay area and while there I did some needed work on her home. I’ve found that most of things I do take place on both the physical and symbolic level. The entry door to her home was a very dark thing, the veneer peeling from the exterior and exposing the particleboard, the door itself solid with no window to admit the light. The floor of the entryway was covered with cracked twelve-inch linoleum tiles that seemed uncleanable.

We bought a nice white door with a leaded glass window. Some of the panels were made of beveled glass and refracted the light. It wasn’t very expensive, a Home Depot mass produced affair, but it certainly worked for us. I also installed new flooring in a light color. My mother doesn’t really understand the depths of my writing with its nuance and metaphor, but she does understand how the light now plays through her entryway and into the rest of the house. At 86, she feels a bit of reinvigoration and tries to picture the hall table and mirror that she wants to put there. She may not understand my poetry, but she understands this. My writing and my craft are the same thing.

When I was a boy I used to have to help nurse my father through his hangovers after weeklong benders. It was a bit like living with a skid row drunk. In his angst and self-pity, he would describe the beatings he had endured from his own father. I found myself wishing I could find the spiritual secret that would heal him. It never happened. He died while drunk when I was 22, but I kept on looking anyway.

During my life I’ve been a master carpenter and cabinetmaker and a well-respected teacher. I’ve also been a parent. I’ve learned from all these things. I’ve let wood speak to me. I’ve let human experience speak to me. I know now what I would want to take back to my father. I doubt it would have helped, though. We would have had to roll back the clock and I would have had to be his father, teach him the little things along the way, and expose him to awe. I would have had to rebuild the entryway into his life and given him a new door that admitted a lot more light, light refracted by the fascinating designs in the glass.

Everything I learned for my father’s sake infuses my work: my furniture, my writing, my teaching. In the first chapter of my book I state, “I want to inspire you to some deep feeling, but can’t tell you what the feeling should be.” I want you to be moved and not necessarily know why. I certainly can’t rebuild your entryway, but I hope to challenge you enough that you gain the craftsman’s skills to rebuild your own.

I do need to ask one kind favor of you. Human beings have evolved due to their support of one another, and I do need your support. There are 100,000 visitors to this site a day. If even 1% of you decide to support my work on Amazon today or tomorrow, it would allow me to upgrade my own doorway to life, allow me to create even greater work. These are the things human beings can do for each other, constantly helping each other to greater awareness and clarity in a great reciprocity.

At the school where I used to teach, we had a series of sayings. One of them was, “When in doubt, go with gratitude.” I’m not in doubt here, but I’ll still go with gratitude.

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About John Spivey

  • Great piece, wonderful writing–might even go so far as to say you’ve exposed me vicariously to a little awe.

  • Read his book, Gordon, and you will truly be awe-inspired.

    Great piece, as usual, John. You’re lucky to have found the peace that eluded your father. I think many of us are left trying to put the pieces together, after a lost-soul of a parent has passed on. I wish I could have understood my father better.

    Reading your book has certainly shed some light for me, to understanding myself better.

  • Gordon and Chantal,
    Thanks very much. Peace is a dynamic thing, more present at some times, less at others. The last main “peace” of the puzzle for me is to simply make a living from my creations and to have those creations serve a larger purpose.

  • Ah, John, me lad, we’ve got to figure out how to promote your book. You write with a simple elegance that I envy and admire. You offer lessons with a subtly and modesty that make them all the more powerful.

    I’m back posting on Readerville. In fact, I’m heading over there now to promote your book & see if I can get some of those folks to buy it.

    Keep on writing…for your fans, regardless of how small, you are an inspiration.

  • Disgusted

    Ugh. I remember when BC was about information and experience, and not about whoring one’s own works.

  • disgusted-
    Whoring connotes a compromise of one’s integrity and being in the pursuit of money or experience. If you believe I’m a whore I can’t change that perception. As in the old Joni Mitchell song, I’m standing on the corner playing my clarinet for free, a tin cup at my feet. Are bitch and wank fests about “information and experience?”

  • John

    Nice reply to disgusted, who needs to get his head out of his rectum so that his mouth will be less filled with his own excrement.(pardon me if that was sexist for not believing a woman can be as foul as a man, I do apologise disgusted if you are a woman)

    I know exactly how you feel John in regards to your father; could I have prevented the abuse he heaped upon me if I had known the secret to “fixing his entranceway”? Only if I could have prevented World War One, which means the rise of European nationalism and the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

    My father’s father served with the British troops on The Somme as a medic, he lost a lung to gas, and suffered from untreated Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for the rest of his life. He never held a job from 1929 until the day he died sometime in the late seventies.

    My father was beaten and emotionally repressed and crushed by his parents, especially his father, my father in turn took it out on me. With everybody else “out to get him” he needed a victim to have power over.

    I put forward a theorm a while ago, that we as a society are still feeling the after shocks of the Industrial Revolution and World War one. Until all of us who are the abused children of abused children of the victims of those two events in history can break the cycle of violence there will be no peace.

    Instead of looking behind with regret at not being able to fix the problems that came for those before, becasue they are irreperable no matter how much we wish otherwise, we need to focus on the future and ensure that those coming after us have a better chance to succed then we did.

    There is enough trauma in the world now without anyone receiving it from those that are supposed to be protecting them.

    I add my voice to Mark’s and Chantel’s encouraging people to purchase John’s book. It will help make the process above easier


  • Ruvy from Jerusalem


    I too enjoyed reading your piece. There are several paths to inner peace, and they are most varied in their nature.

    Good jop!

    But what caught my attention was this:

    “I put forward a theory a while ago, that we as a society are still feeling the after shocks of the Industrial Revolution and World War one. Until all of us who are the abused children of abused children of the victims of those two events in history can break the cycle of violence there will be no peace.”

    This is something I will have to read and examine. My father was caught between the guns of the Russians and the Germans in the Great War and had to learn at a very young age (six) how to survive.

  • Disgusted, why don’t you do us all a favor and find some other place to spew your pathetic little rants. Or at least learn to be clever or funny–the they’d be tolerable.

    Richard & Ruvy, I agree completely that we haven’t learned how to adjust to the Industrial Revolution and WW1. If you read histories of Europe, particularly England, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the culture changes were as traumatic as one could imagine.

    I would suggest that we are also still slaves to the Enlightment theories that posit that human beings are rational animals, that emotion is antithetical to rational thought, and that we are capable of conscious decision making. Those beliefs have led to fixed mind set that, even in the face of experience to the contrary, results in bad decisions, misperceptions, anxiety, and worse.

    Modern science is shattering all those Enlightenment myths just as Einstein shattered the logical but flawed Newtonian model. It’s going to take generations before we understand how human beings truly take in and process information, make decisions and form emotions and behavior–and throw off that old model.

  • I haven’t been this spurred to thought by a (you’ll forgive me) stranger’s writing since I last read Thoreau…if anyone can call Thoreau a stranger.

    Alas, I’m a struggling writer myself, but this caught my eye since I’m writing a short film about a book editor weary of reading bad books.

    Just a little advice: don’t lean on the web. Feel free to mix your medias, even if it means making friends with weirdos. Sometimes books need to start small to get published. As a short play or story.

    It’s yours…try something different.

  • Pardon me…a minor edit:

    Sometimes books need to start small to get seen, known, and circulated.

    I realize you’ve already published.

  • Jules,

    You’re right…it’s a combination of web, book readings, book clubs, articles, reviews, signings, interviews…a full marketing plan across all media.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • Richard–I think civilization has worked to gradually erode our natural connection to life, but indeed, the Industrial Revolution did a body slam. People were virtually torn away from their agrarian lives and locked into dark factories. That certainly does a number on the human spirit. The First World War was the war that never needed to be, and from it sprang the rest of the carnage of the century. You asked in your last article, “What is normal?” I’m afraid that normal involves a lot of abuse and a lot of self-medication. Our history will overwhelm us if we don’t stop and really understand it. We keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. Pretty insane.

    Ruvy–Thank you.

    Mark–I hope I live up to your praise.

    Jules–I have wondered how Thoreau or Emerson would fare today. With regard to your review on The Waking Life, my book winds its way through various levels of dream imagery. I think I will soon post an article on the nature of the symbolic life as opposed to the strictly linear.

    Life is what’s at hand. My window where I write looks out to the driveway and frontyard. Two towhees having been doing their silly little, fluffing, fanning mating dance. What if all the writers on BC forgot all their normal writerly opinions and watched a bird for awhile and let the mind stop, then sat to describe its plumage, its song, its mating dance. Post that together. Let the real start from this point. How many writers stop to simply express gratitude or awe? As writers we still mostly hold to the old complaint, the old pain. Why write anyway?

  • “How many writers stop to simply express gratitude or awe? As writers we still mostly hold to the old complaint, the old pain. Why write anyway?”

    As Neil Simon Woody Allen agreed:
    It’s the journey, not the destination.