In defense of tools

I have recently moved homes. Everything is different and all the processes to be happy, healthy, and going strong have changed. This wasn’t going from one standard apartment with a robust apartment complex to another standard apartment with a robust apartment complex. I did not go from one americana mid-century kitchen, combo toilet and bathroom, and on site laundry room to the same. I went from a flat in an 1800s victorian gingerbread house to a house share in another 1800s victorian gingerbread house. Both places have a lot of construction and incremental modernization history. Both places have their challenges.

And yet I must still be warm and dry, sleep, eat, and be ready to work.

In the past, I’ve been backpacking for a week with a small frame backpack. I can wildcraft. I’ve gone for weeks across a foreign country out of a pack. I used to attend a lot of open field festivals with camping grounds, and I still attend conventions in hotels. It isn’t like I don’t have the skills to be warm and dry, sleep, eat, and be ready to work.

Skills are not tools.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of pure will magicians who scoff at physical manifestations. Especially the ones that view physical tools as cheating; making something easier is not cheating. It is cunning conservation of potential. It is also not acknowledging the mental structures they have put time and energy into creating and learning to work with as tools, which makes them seem like arrogant fools to me.

Back to camping. I am sure, over time, I could build a fire pit and find a good rock that could do the same function as a camp stove and a cast iron skillet to make pancakes. It would take longer, and be harder, but I could do it. I could also not feed as many people as quickly with the rock. It would be even easier, and slower, to make stick cakes by mixing the batter thicker and using branches propped over a fire. I could feed myself. I have those skills. And I could use those skills to make up for fewer or poorer tools.

It would be a lot harder to bake a creme brulee and then caramelize the top using a camp fire. I’m pretty sure I could do it. I have ideas. But it would not be simple or easy.

Back to the move. Thankfully, both old place and new place had indoor plumbing. In the old home, electrical was 120 volt only so we couldn’t have a washer and dryer hookup. We found a low voltage stand alone washer, and used that. At the new home, none of the sink faucets have standard threading, so we can’t use the stand alone washer. But the new home does have 220 electrical and a laundry hook up – once we get machines. So we went to the laundromat last night, which saved me from seeing if the salad spinner we never use would make a good manual lingerie washing device.

I am taking advantage of the tools. And even if there are situations where I am dependent on tools, isn’t that exactly when you want to have tools?

It isn’t like I can will myself to run 65 miles per hour to get to work on time. No amount of technique, practice, and grit will make that possible. It takes a tool to travel that fast. I can’t hold my hand over a fire to cook food. Even stick cakes as a temporary scavenged tool are a tool. I could go to the river to wash my clothes, but it takes tooling to bring the river to me.

Taking advantage of tools has been especially important when things are different. My cast iron cookware works on an open fire, on a gas range, on an electrical range, in so many ovens, and I am pretty sure as it is seasoned to a lovely dark color it would work in a solar heat focus. I choose clothes that can be hand washed or thrown in an industrial washer. There was a ritual where I deliberately made myself temporarily insane some years back, as part of a carefully structured process, where the will I had spent a lifetime building was not accessible to me – by design – and I was kept in the container of the process by the framework of physical tools I had previously arranged. My mind was different; the tools made doing the ritual possible.

Embrace tool use.

Do not be afraid to use one tool and then put it down. Do not be afraid to stay with the same tool even if it is not the most popular choice. If it works for you, it works. Be unabashed in showing your work. If a thrift store platter is the right size and material and origin that everyone in your coven can do cakes for cakes and ale on it without being too large to pass, too small to hold everything, and too precious to be used without worry, then it is the best platter. If an heirloom platter helps everyone have a sense of occasion and reverence, then it is the best platter. But don’t make everyone be distracted from the occasion by refusing to use a platter and passing around a stack of cakes that take attention to balance because you are against using tools.

A lot of us are dealing with a lot of change right now. Things are not only different, they are difficult. Why make it more difficult to do work by avoiding things that are designed to help? In the long run, it may be better to change all the faucets to suit the old machine, or buy a new machine, but it wouldn’t get me to work in clean clothes today. The laundromat did that. Pick your battles and take up your tools.

About the Author

Perlandria has flourished where she was planted, although her family is from many places most of them far away. Her deep roots start in the San Francisco Bay Area. She's fond of visiting many gardens, and learning about their cultural context. A favorite place to visit is a kind of cross denominational seed swap that happens every year in February where she has served the greater community for over 15 years. In her spiritual garden you'll find tracts devoted to Gerth, Oxun, Chango, and Freyr. Early influences were christian mystery cults, shinto, heathenry, buddhism, and hinduism. As an adult, Perlandria chose afro-american faiths for practice. As an atheist, this has caused some confusion about her regular day to day experiences and beliefs.

Author Archive Page