While reading in a book Grandma gave me called OAK The Frame of Civilization by William Bryant Logan, I came upon a section called “Mister Cooper.” “Mister,” a form of the word master, was a term that was applied, like Dr., Rev., Lord, etc., to those who had acquired the skill and title of what we would call a master craftsman. It is now applied to men in general, but was once an honored, middle class title. The author stated that Thomas Jefferson felt that government would be best trusted in the hands of these people, who had become highly and responsibly skilled, many of whom had to also become skilled in other trades such as farming to supplement their income. In learning their trade, along with their experiences, they could be better trusted to be responsible than those of the elite or of the lower classes of people.
One of your ancestors, Charles Barnes, was one of these master coopers. The ten pages that described in detail what went into an apprentice’s training to become a cooper and the exactness with which their goods were produced was amazing to read! I cannot share all of that, but the final three paragraphs were gems I wanted to share.
The great thing about coopering and other crafts was that they occupied the brain, the hand, and the emotions, all at the same time. There was a resistance to the completion of the task, and this had to be overcome by the craftsman’s know-how, a composite of his knowing, remembering, and action. Memory, reason, and skill are God’s three gifts to human beings, and the simultaneous activity of the three might just be a requirement to become and remain a human being.
Craft is a school of patience. Patience is what you acquire by working again and again on resistant materials. There is never a right or wrong, only a closer and closer approach to wholly useful.
Patience is the mother of joy. It is through patience that we can endure each other’s company long enough to love, through patience that we can cooperate in a task, through patience that we can go from abysmally bad to almost all right, through patience that we can restrain ourselves from wasting our lives in anger and disappointment. The patient person waits, listens, expects, hopes, nurtures, cares, remembers, speaks, trusts, and is courteous. The impatient person demands, gets angry, hurries, presumes, is careless, despairs, forgets, complains, distrusts, disrupts. (p. 181)
Some of my thoughts on this topic of patience is that it is probable that it cannot be acquired without the pain and “resistance” endemic to mortal life, which is why this is the time to prepare, for when the night comes (death), it is everlastingly too late to acquire this virtue so critical to being able to live with and like God. (Thank goodness He has patience, or we would ALL be toast!) When we have passed out of this life, pain and resistance are gone. If we have acquired this virtue “…it will be well with us.” If we have not, we will not be fit to live with those who have.
Oh, that we might spend our days seeking to learn about and acquire this virtue! So “that we can endure each other’s company long enough to love,” cooperate in a task, change “from abysmally bad to almost all right,” (repent) and “restrain ourselves from wasting our lives in anger and disappointment.” I’m convinced that our Heavenly Father crafts the experiences of our lives in such a way that, if we will trust in Him and keep on trying, He will build this and other vital virtues in us, and in this way bring us home to Him.