|a play tray of parts for making boxes|
I have been asked by a child therapist if I will make "sand trays," which are used to help children describe what has happened to them and actual circumstances for which they have no words and no understanding. Just as child psychiatrists used the "house, tree, person test" to get a handle on what's going on in the mind of the child, and what cannot be put effectively in words, the sand tray is used to gain interpretive insight in Jungian psychology. You can read about it here.
While I may or may not find time to make sand trays, I find my own work to be a therapeutic means through which to integrate my conscious and subconscious minds. When I am wrestling in my dreams with concepts that seem to make little sense, I often find that in waking hours, the work of my hands helps my mind make sense of things. For instance, tomorrow I will continue work on my Japanese puzzle boxes and the assembly of concrete parts will reveal my success or failure at recreating a mechanism that works while hidden completely from view. Step-by-step engagement in the process of creating useful beauty helps us to find a secure place in the world while allowing us to be of some significance to others.
There are those who call woodworking "sawdust therapy", and therapy is needed not because there is something wrong with us that marks us as unworthy and that must be fixed, but because in a conflicted world, it gives us the power to set things right, not only for ourselves but for others also.
My own useful variation of a sand tray is shown above. It consists of a cardboard beer flat filled with wooden parts carefully prepared to assemble into Japanese puzzle boxes.
As we look at learning, we must banish the inclination to reside solely in that which can be spoken and/or in that which can be easily measured. Creative work demands the engagement of both the conscious and unconscious minds, and the intersection between the two can be most effectively addressed through visual thinking. Or as Einstein described:
The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be 'voluntarily' reproduced and combined. .... This combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others. ––Albert Einstein in a letter to Jacques Hadamard.Make, fix and create...