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  • Steven Delpome

The Hand Saw Metaphor


Anyone who has ever worked with wood in their life has used a handsaw. Even if you've only ever tried one once, you know what it feels like to use it. You start a groove. You push and pull the saw. You cuss and swear at it and you begin to sweat as it gets stuck in the groove as you try to cut.

Our Society has tried to remedy this problem by inventing circular saws, jigsaws, reciprocating saws, table saws, et al. in order to make this process of cutting wood easier. In the hands of highly trained professionals with years of practice, these are highly effective tools. In the hands of an amatuer, they are often great tools for making more mistakes more efficiently. Couple that with the weight and the extension cords that get in the way and it seems we’re still stuck cutting wood poorly no matter the too.

But there is something about the handsaw that we almost always overlook: It only gets stuck because we try to force it to do that which it was not meant to do.

Try it. Grab your handsaw and a piece of wood. Start a groove. But instead of pressing down on the wood as you cut like you usually do, just let the saw’s teeth work back and forth across the wood, doing the job it was designed to do. You'll find that the handsaw is not such a difficult tool to use after all. You'll see the work is quite quick actually! As a matter of fact, there's a good chance you'll get a more accurate cut with it than with your power tools. You might even find there's something of a zen feeling or a dharma to the task, as you move with the saw and it moves with you, each doing nothing more than that which you were created to do.

We might take a lesson from the handsaw in education. If we did we might see that all of the doing that we do, is similar to our pushing the saw onto the wood with too much force. We might see that we've taken learning, which is oh so natural, and complicated it to the point that we are figuratively tripping over the extension cords and hauling around extra weight, when all we need is to allow the handsaw to do what it does naturally. When we push the handsaw, we try to exert power and control over what it will naturally do. But if we allow the handsaw to do what it naturally does, we’ll find that we will be quite surprised and impressed by the results!

(psssst...the handsaw is the child in this edu-metaphor)