The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Type & Letterpress

Movable Type

A few years back when attending graphics classes at Walla Walla University, I happened to notice an old divided drawer of movable metal type from the age of manual typesetting. The type had no doubt been there for years, and looked to have seen little use. As I’m a bit of an enthusiast, I took note of the novelty at the time.

Now, years later, I’m back at my Alma Mater teaching graphics and web classes on a contract basis. My wife, knowing my love for all things printed, decided to follow the 1st-year paper theme when selecting my anniversary/Christmas gift, and bought me an Adana Eight-Five letterpress, shipped all the way from England. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

I set about ordering some appropriately rubber-based ink, and then started hunting for plates, cleaning supplies, paper, and type. Upon asking the chair of the Technology department I found that the drawer of type I remembered was unclaimed, and was even left relatively undisturbed! I asked if I could have the drawer—if no one had any particular objections, and a couple emails later I found myself rushing to the lab to see what I could find. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find not just a drawer of type, but a whole cabinet.

Movable Type Boxes

I thought it unwise (and impractical) to attempt to take several drawers of type home with me after class—especially since I only asked for one—so I looked through several of the drawers and found six smaller boxes of type, each containing 100 pieces. Figuring that this would be enough to keep me busy, I departed with a small handful of type rather than a truck load.

When I arrived home, my dear wife helped me painstakingly sort out two of the boxes that were in a very disorganized state. Now I have type ready for blocking to be used on my letterpress, and I can’t wait to make it happen. Stay tuned for more, as I’ll surely be writing about the results of my attempts.

Filed under: creativity, generosity, opportunity, printing, process, type, typesetting

Change

I think I’ve figured it out. What’s it, you ask? Change. People fear it, create it, adapt to it, and ironically enough, need it. Take for example a slow day. When nothing’s happening, we come down with this awfully dreadful condition we call boredom. Really, this is just our way of saying “change something” to the world around us. Or how about fearing change? We’ve just established that it’s something we need, so why do we often fear it so much? Well, studies will tell you that humans (like most other creatures) are creatures of habit—meaning that an astronomical percentage of what we do is done simply because we’ve done it before. This experienced feeling we have from repeating actions which have worked well for us in the past gives a sense of belonging. Belonging gives humans purpose. As I’m beginning to understand, the ability to change one’s self is the most amazing way in which humans use change. We adapt. I just learned today that Eskimos who eat raw fish almost always end up developing parasitic stomach worms. Like me, you might grimace at that and say “fix that,” but just wait. Studies have been done showing that, while simply cooking the fish (as if it’s really simple that far north) would keep the worms from showing up, it would also remove certain nutrients from the Eskimo diet that helps their immune systems handle the worms. These people have adapted to their environment, and without even trying. The next level of this type of change is seen when it becomes voluntary. By taking control of one’s life, he/she can become increasingly stable in increasingly unstable conditions. In certain religions, people who meditate for extended periods of time have learned through conscious practice how to lower their heart rate and need for oxygen to a point where they can be buried alive for several hours, be dug up, and remain in perfectly good health. If these people can discipline themselves into a state that defies even death, who’s to say that much of anything is beyond reach?
For the last several months I’ve been reading up on what makes a person wise. The best answer I’ve come up with for attempting to summarize this virtue is “the ability to understand and adapt to change.” There, now practice changing.

Filed under: belonging, change, comfort, conditioning, coping, creativity, decisions, eskimo, fear, fish, growth, independence, learning, strength, trauma, Uncategorized, worms

Batteries

Batteries are interesting things. We put them in brand new, and then we forget about them until they die. Really they only get attention at the beginnings of their lives and at the ends. What about all the batteries that outlast us? Has it ever crossed your mind that when you put a battery in an appliance it may very well live after you’re dead? All those clocks ticking, cell phones ringing, and lights glowing will still tick, ring, and glow without you. It’s astounding what changes you can make in the world around you with such little effort. They’re changes that may seem small now, but maybe later they’ll be big to someone else—perhaps even after you’re gone. So, what sorts of things do you put batteries into?

Filed under: batteries, change, creativity, growth, helping, hurting, hypothetical, interaction, living, making a difference, metaphor, opportunity, priorities