I’m not a huge TV watcher. I tend to do more reading and research than watching TV (unless the Flyers or Phillies are playing). However, about a month ago, I subscribed to HBO Max to watch a documentary that interested me.
In the ensuing weeks, I started watching what I think is one of the most important series I’ve ever seen on TV. Titled The Craftsman (also available on the Magnolia Network), the series centers on septuagenarian master woodworker, Eric Hollenbeck, and his workshop, Blue Ox mill works in Eureka, CA. What’s important about this series? Eric Hollenbeck is important. His decades of experience allow him to hold a master class in the value of traditions and practices most of us have never even considered, or that we have, perhaps, forgotten.
When I was a teenager in the 80s, my neighbor was an Englishman by the last name of Collins. Mr. Collins was a stone mason and carpenter. He’d built his own house, the houses of countless others, and numerous businesses in my county. Mr. Collins gave me my first job, cutting his 1.5 acre lawn when I was barely 12, and later, when I came of age, I worked for him and his son on their contract jobs for several summers.
What I learned from Mr. Collins was the value of honest work. While I excelled in school and knew I wanted a future in the field of academia, the work I did, day in and day out, for Mr. Collins was a better education than any I have ever paid for.
And so, watching Eric Hollenbeck and The Craftsman, listening to his wise insights into the value of craftwork, and the joy of an honest day’s work…it brought me back to my youth and has given me a new appreciation for sacrifice, community, and the act of making.
But more so, Eric Hollenbeck has reaffirmed my belief in the power of story to bind us through its honesty, its sorrows, and its joys. Listening to Eric tell his stories, I’m reminded of the Wisdom novels of Marilynne Robinson. There is something calming and reassuring in his stories. Something that reaches back to a time that moved slower, that somehow speaks of a life more deep and meaningful than the speed obsessed surface skimming of contemporary society.
And perhaps, more than anything, Eric is living proof of the power of an honest day’s work. And that? That is a good thing.