Fear And Lathing In Los Alamos

Woodturning on a lathe. Photo by Father Theophan Mackey

Saint Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Church

A few years ago, my father-in-law decided to downsize and clean out his garage in preparation for a move. I’m always in the market for new tools, and so when he offered a chainsaw and a wood lathe, I jumped at the chance. I’ve used chainsaws before, but although I love watching woodturning on the lathe, I had never done it. It was always a bit intimidating… okay, scary. 

When my pottery wheel is spinning at top speed, it’s only going 300 rpm or so. And even then, if things spin out of control, I’m only hit with wet clay. A wood lathe never turns that “slowly.” It’s usually spinning near 1,000 rpm, and if your very sharp tool catches an imperfection in the wood, or the wood disintegrates, those make really fast, really sharp projectiles. 

So I did what I normally do, I put it in the garage and forgot about it for a while. Then I went to Youtube university, got a good face shield and some gloves and new turning chisels, and I dove in. 

Where angels fear to tread? Maybe it’s not that scary. But through some trial and error, I’ve made a few nice things. 

But where would we be if we didn’t do the things that scared us at first? 

Learning, discovery begins where our comfortable experience ends. One foot on solid ground, one foot searching out for new footing in the darkness. 

That new neighbor who just moved in might just be good friends not yet known. Friends that open us up to cultures we had never experienced. Just possibly the best Korean red chile pork one can imagine… just saying. 

Most of us are comfortable enough to chance a little more chaos, to learn something, or meet someone new. When the Almighty spoke creation into existence, he proclaimed it “Good!” Even after the Fall and everything that has come after it, he never revoked his original judgment. And then he doubled down on creation and became part of it. He made himself subject to fear and ultimately death, only to overthrow them and drive out fear with love. 

There is so much good in this world. So much more to know and to see. There are so many good people who are waiting for kind connection if we can just reach out. Yes, sometimes we will be hurt if we open ourselves up, but it is worth it. 

I have had my share of scary catches on the lathe, with chunks of wood coming off the turning and flying around, but I haven’t been injured too badly. Always wear proper PPE! (Don’t get me started on angle-grinder safety.)

There is no efficient PPE for life experiences while allowing for growth. We’re going to get hurt, we’re going to be disappointed occasionally, and things that look easy to experienced people usually start out hard. Be brave, you can do this.