Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recovering the Lost Arts

I am repeatedly hearing that the homemaking arts of sewing, crocheting, quilting, canning, gardening, etc. are dying out because they have not been passed on by the previous two or so generations. This knowledge was once held by virtually everyone. Not only did everyone know these skills three generations ago, but all were experts in these arts.

I have spoken at length to older members of my community (over 80 years old) about this and found that there was indeed a universal knowledge of all of these arts. "Of course I know how to do that, everyone in my generation did," seems to be the universal response among the people I have visited with.

As I have pondered on this through the years I have made an effort to teach my daughter these arts that are disappearing from the earth. I am far from proficient in them and some I don't even know. I have been seeking out older mentors not only for my daughter but also for me; that way I can help teach the next generation including my grandchildren. This requires a conscious effort.

In reflecting on this I've also realized that the basic arts for men are also fast fleeing our society as well. These arts would be: handling a gun, auto repair, animal husbandry (chickens, livestock, etc), home repairs and maintenance, farming, landscaping (fruit and ornamental trees), changing water, building and carpentry, woodworking, leatherworking, carving, etc. There are many things that go on this list. I've noticed that as a general rule more and more men are either not doing the above things or are outsourcing it when there is a problem in the home. These arts must be reclaimed as well.

I believe that these arts that are necessary, whether in the role of man or woman, have been downplayed and carefully removed by socialists from our society in an effort to reduce the impact made by those correctly living their gender role. This is done through the media and the feminist movement. The strong protector is now a "chauvinist pig" and the feminine female is now a "victim of white man supremacy who should take her 'rightful place' among the men in the workforce." Remember the goal of socialists is an amoral society. That means that not only do they remove morals but they create a society where there are not males and females, but a society that becomes "its." I believe that this goes back to Satan wanting us to be "miserable like unto himself." President Packer recently stated that "Satan is impotent." Therefore he doesn't want us to fulfill our gender roles since he cannot either.

Some thoughts from Joseph F. Smith from Gospel Doctrine page 344-347:

"And here, also, a word to parents who have daughters. Are you fitting them for the practical duties of mother and wife, that they may in due time go out and make homes what they should be? Or are you training your daughter to play the lady by making them accomplished in flourishes, and expert in ostentatious embellishments?....We should not fail to insist that they shall to do the practical things, and they do not despise the common labors of life. Any other course toward them is an injustice to the boys and girls, as well as to ourselves and the community in general.

"I believe the morals of the people will improve as skill in workmanship and productive labors is acquired. Parents, too, will find it easier to govern and control their children, if these are trained in usual manual labor…

"There are but a few of our boys who take the hammer to the anvil and to those pursuits of labor that are essential to the permanence of any community in the world and that are necessary to build up the country…

"I would like to say to this congregation, and to the world, that if I possessed millions of dollars I would not be satisfied or content in my mind unless my boys knew how to do something that would bring them in a living, how to handle a pitchfork, or to run a mowing machine or reaper, or how to plow the ground and sow the seed; nor would I be satisfied if my daughters did not know how to keep a house. I would be ashamed of my children if they did know something of these things. We need manual training in schools instead of so much booklearning and the stuffing of fairy tales and fables which are contained in many of our school books of today. If we would devote more money and time, more energy and attention to teaching our children manual labor in our schools than we do, it would be a better thing for the rising generation."
I am making a greater effort to recover the lost arts in our society by learning them myself and passing them on to my children. In this way I believe we will live fuller lives as we embrace and reclaim our inheritance.


Emily said...

Don't you think learning all those skills makes you more independent, too? You don't have to rely on finding someone else to take care of things for you. You just do it yourself!

Karen said...

Thanks for this - it is motivational. I often get overwhelmed with all of the things I don't know how to do so I give up and rationalize away their importance. Thanks for the great reminder and motivation to keep on with my efforts.

Christy said...

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. When visiting teaching last month I shared with my sisters some of the things you had written about Relief Society and sewing and I was surprised that none of them thought it was important to learn. "Why learn how to do that? It is cheaper to buy things than make them."

My thoughts have mostly been focused around boys though. Our society has created a bunch of men who have business professions that do not know how to do anything else. If something happened to the economy and they lost their job, or their job became obsolete, could they really take care of their families? What happened to the Charles Ingalls type men?

Thanks for including such a great list of skills for boys to learn. I think we should focus on those things as much as we do math and history.

Kassie said...

Every post you write makes me nod my head in agreement and wish I could so eloquently express my feelings. I could not agree with you more on this topic and it has been on my mind for several years now. I wish I could say I had done something about it, but I have a long way to go. I never thought about the topics you listed for boys, but seeing it I see where I need to do some work with my own teenaged boys. Or should I say my husband needs to work with them. I am so fortunate to be married to a man who can do most of those things and isn't afraid to tackle the ones he is not as competent in. He always finds a mentor to teach him skills he feels he's lacking. I'm just not sure we've passed that on to our children.
Keep writing. You so inspire me!

Ranee said...

I have been thinking, for the last little while, that I need to find a mentor who will teach me the basics of hand-sewing (to start). But I haven't done anything about it. Maybe there is a sister in our ward who would be willing to teach me. Thank you for reminding me of the value and importance of these self-sustaining activities. I really want to learn them and pass them onto my children! :0)

Tianna said...

I agree with pretty much everything you said. But the part about the men has made me ponder. Really, this isn't an attack or even me disagreeing. I really am just pondering.

Does a man really needto know all of that stuff? Reading Pres. Smith's quote is very telling and… very not. He's very clear that all of those things need to be learned. But on the other hand, they really were necessary skills when he lived.

"There are but a few of our boys who take the hammer to the anvil and to those pursuits of labor that are essential to the permanence of any community in the world and that are necessary to build up the country…"

Is taking the hammer to the anvil essential to the permeance of any community in the world today? Is it necessarily the physical labor of, for lack of a better term, farm work that is necessary? Or is it the knowledge and desire of working hard? My husband works his regular full time job as a computer programmer, then comes home and takes on side jobs programming in order to help us pay our mortgage faster. He knows the value of hard work more than most men I know.

True, if something happened and electricity went out, he'd be out of a job. His skills would be largely useless. There would be a huge change in our family. But barring that, is he doing such a horrible job? Yes, there is a chance the economy can fail and his skills would be useless. But if it doesn't, has he done wrong in not learning how to irrigate? How to plant grain? How to milk a cow? How to prune a fruit tree?

For what it's worth, he's a fast learner and if push came to shove, I think he'd learn all of that and more faster than most. I also grew up on a farm, so I do know how to do a lot of that. He encourages me in learning to crochet, cross stitch, knit, sew, garden and can. He's supportive of me wanting to always own a house with land so we can grow our own food and maybe someday even have animals. I know that when that day comes that we do own land (we currently own a condo), he'll be willing to help me.

I guess, is a man not complete until he learns how to use a gun, slaughter a cow, tan the hide, and make a saddle out of it? Until he can build his own house with a hammer and a nail? (No nail guns allowed!)

Do we have to learn how to do everything by ourselves? When do we allow ourselves to use electricity? Do I need to get a sewing machine that I can pump with my foot in case electricity goes out? Do I need to learn to sew by hand? Do I need to learn to can food without my stove? Do I need to figure out how to carve my own crochet hooks in case I lose one and can't buy another?

I am a naturalist and a holistic person. But I also love technology. Where do we draw the line? Is it enough to know how to do something, just in case, but use technology until/if something bad happens?

What about families that don't own land? How do they learn to do all of that?

Sorry, I ramble a lot. I agree that these lost arts are vital to bring back. But it also raises a lot of questions.

Mama Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kestrel said...

Tianna, agreed. My husband is also a computer programmer. If there was ever something big, like an EMP attack we'd be screwed.

But then again, I think I would rather know how to do stuff than not know. If it's never necessary for my husband to be proficient with animal husbandry, that's okay. But if push comes to shove, I'd rather we have a basic knowledge than nothing at all. Does that make sense? I bought a copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living just in case something ever happens and we need to know this stuff, it is very informative and walks you through just about everything.

I would love for my husband and me to do auto repair and basic home repair type stuff, but where do you go to learn this stuff? Especially stuff that involves tools, big expensive space-stealing tools, like wood working. Any suggestions?

Rebekah said...

Whenever I think of learning these fading arts I get excited because not only are they valuable, freedom producing skills to gain but they are a perfect “wholesome recreation” for us to participate in. Think about all the relationship building you can gain by learning to tie knots, sew play things, build, and invent things together. So much better than even the best educational/family programming you find on TV.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Excellant points. What skills are needed now and what ones really aren't? What is the balance with technology. Thoughts anyone?

I think Kris (Kestrel) is right that it would be good to have at least a clue on some things. Having been exposed to them or having a book that has the basic information about some of them would be a huge start. I want a book like that now! : )

I think this is where prayer comes in too know what skills to learn and ones to not worry about.

If we live in the city it may be harder to do some things. Although Misfit lives in a thriving city and she has chickens. Perhaps in a city you could work on gaining knowledge in plumbing and auto repair verses animal husbandry and moving water.

I currently have any possibility open to me living in rural Idaho. We have lots of land and no skills. Perhaps this is why these things are on my mind.

Another thought that I have been thinking of is from this quote from B. Young: "Everything connected with building up Zion requires actual, severe labor. It is nonsense to talk about building up any kingdom except by labor; it requires the labor of every part of our organization, whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual, and that is the only way to build up the kingdom of God." DBY 291

I didn't like the part of severe labor. I think I do a better job with the mental and the spiritual than the physical. I am thinking that at least engaging in a small smattering of these things could bring not only skills but physical toughness that my soft boys (and myself)need. I want to be ready for Zion no matter what! : )

Anyway I hope those are more thoughts to ponder on Tianna! Thanks for asking. Great questions.

Christy~ I don't think people realize that there is a chance that there won't be stores to buy clothes and/or we won't be able to afford the clothes. I agree we need to raise some Charles Ingalls boys who are ready for anything!

I hope these ramblings make sense and spark more thoughts. I think you are all great.

Joyful Saint said...

It's not neccessarily about all the exact specifics of every possible art....but YES, it is important to know how to physically do basic things (even though we don't have to do them now for survival.)
I believe that is why we are commanded to plant a garden...still. Even when it's cheaper and easier to coupon shop. Gardening teaches how to do real, physical work. A husband doesn't need to become a smithee. But he should know how to handle tools and have a hobby in atleast one physical area. I think it's crucial in becoming a whole person.

Mama Rachel said...

I love this post! This has been pressing on my mind for years, also.

In our society today, we actually LOOK DOWN on the generations before us, simply because they did not have the technology we do. Yet, their knowledge, education, and self-reliance puts us in this day and age TO SHAME!

If we were to lose our technology-- say we lost the ability to have electricity, running water, or the use of oil in our vehicles and in other products (plastics, medicines, foods, fabrics) what we we do??? How many people would die or suffer terribly as a result of our modern ignorance?

Relying on technology or the government to save us shows us our lack of righteous stewardship. When we disregard the knowledge of the past, we are asking for trouble. When we don't know what it means to grow our own food, or for an animal to DIE just so we can eat, I don't think we are showing gratitude to our Father in Heaven. When food comes from a box in a store, we easily forget that it's the Lord-- and not technology-- that gives us EVERYTHING.

And THAT is why the knowledge of our ancestors is so important. Because they knew they had to rely on God for their very survival. It's an important lesson for us to learn!

Thanks again, Deanna-- you've given us a great reminder! :-)