The Sound of One Hand Clapping

January 1, 2019 

My name is Michael Moore. I sit here on my 52nd birthday, and, like everyone else, try to start a new year. My whole adult life has been defined by my ability to make my hands work. I was an aspiring graphic artist who became a woodworker and musician. Everything I have done relies expressly on fine and blunt hand skills.

Now I sit here with most of my left hand missing. A blazing spilt second at a machine that has been a constant in my workshop seemingly since the dawn of time. I know my machines. I rebuilt them all. I know a bad bearing before the bearing does. All of that doesn’t mean a thing when steel meets flesh. Flesh loses every time.

You make deals with yourself when something like this happens. “Ok, three fingers are gone…I can’t play guitar any more, but I can learn to play left handed.” “I can’t can’t carry a door… yet.” You make deals, or you give up. Both roads had their magnetic pull.

That feeling of making deals with myself bordered first on panic, or at least a manic defiance, as if the injury was a tangible creature that could be shouted at or punched. The sprint has now become a march to adapt, and giving up is a creature walking next to you, just off the road. Not dangerous to the healthy, but deadly when weakness and sickness creep over you.

Embarrassment is there, too. I’m not the best furniture maker around, but I am good. I have a breadth of knowledge, and tens of thousands of hours of experience. When you have pride in your abilities and work, the other side of that coin is that, when you fail, you are letting yourself down, and you are also letting the craft down, and the masters who went before you. To destroy one’s most sacred tool, your hand, is to truly fail.

Of course it was an accident. Of course I don’t blame myself completely. But that embarrassment is there. It is a personal feeling for which I have no point of reference outside of my own experience.

I hope that in writing my experience down, I might help others who are navigating some new obstacles of loss and adaptation. I hope this blog, or whatever it turns out to be, becomes a conversation between people and resources that benefits someone. I hope it benefits me as well.

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