Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thoughts on tools, weapons, and the human mind


What is a weapon, but just another kind of tool? One that gives us power within a situation or perhaps over another person, but still just a tool.

This thought has occurred to me many times in the past, and I think it again when I contemplate my work situation. I’m an instructor, a teacher, in a public school. To be more exact, a technical center teaching trades. It’s a common joke of mine that our students are not allowed to have a dangerous pocket knife, but we’ll happily equip them with a chain saw. I make the joke, but I also realize it’s a jest based on truth.

Man is a tool using creature. We are not limited to what our hands can accomplish, but reach out with our minds and find useful ways of extending our reach, leveraging strength, and controlling energies. This trait is not limited to single pathways, but expands based on intelligence and talent. Where one person sees a screw driver; another sees both a screwdriver and a pry bar. A third person sees those uses, and also recognizes a metal spike with an easy to grip handle… a weapon. A certain few of us are wired mentally to see many uses in every tool, including the ability to be a weapon.

Let us take the simple act of walking through a grocery store. A place not known for stockpiling implements of destruction, but still chock full of same… given the right thought process. Surely a kitchen sponge holds little danger, but how about a 12oz can of peas? How much kinetic energy can be stored in a simple can of vegetables thrown at maximum force? Enough to kill and maim… and ammunition is plentiful in that aisle. A jar of olive oil…innocent, till a dozen are smashed on the floor making a nearly impassible barrier to a man on foot.

These items, and more, are used daily and never considered to be tools, let alone weapons. The difference is the mind behind the using; the human mind that sees uses in an object never intended by its maker. Be it a tree limb, a hank of string, or a simple steel bar, everything is a tool to the right mind. To some minds, every tool is also a weapon.

In my daily life I use tools, and teach their use to others. One of the lessons is to think beyond normal limits. Yes, a hammer can be used to strike something, but just as easily can the handle be used to gently push something else. Simply turn it over and hold the heavy end in your hand. Pliers that can grasp can also act as a lever. A test light that detects power can also find ground. A meter that measures voltage can measure resistance in a circuit under load. Everything is a tool and a tools uses are limited only by the mind using them.

In that same vein of thought…. every tool is a weapon if bent to that use by the mind using it.

That’s something to consider, as we go through our daily lives. It’s a thought that shines a new light on everything around us, and sometimes the people around us.

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