Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

September 7, 2010

Belt Sanders and Sandpaper – Smoothing Our Rough Edges and New Year Wishes

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 2:29 am
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        We are days away from celebrating the Jewish New Year, a joyous time, but also a reflective time when Jews, in preparation for Yom Kippur, admit their past errors, ask forgiveness and commit to making substantive changes.  It may seem puzzling that the tool that came to mind when thinking about the coming weeks was the belt sander, but it is exactly the ironic transformative nature of something rough (the belt sander) to make things smooth and ready that made sense for the approaching holiday.

            A belt sander is a tool with an electrical motor that turns drums on which a seamless loop of sandpaper is mounted.  I asked my Dad how something rough, like sandpaper, could make things so smooth.  First, he explained, sandpaper is usually made with neither sand nor paper.  Rather, particles of garnet (a semi-precious stone) are generally attached to cloth or mylar.  Those small particles, when rubbed against a piece of wood, scratch off particles of wood, or scratch into the wood in tiny crevices.  The coarser the grain of the sandpaper, the farther apart the scratches.  With finer grain sandpaper, the scratches are so close together, that the entire surface actually feels smooth.

            What does admitting errors, asking for forgiveness and a commitment to change require?  First, you need to get gritty and strip off some varnish.  Varnish is that external layer that allows us to keep up appearances, but also masks the genuine nature beneath.  Asking forgiveness is certainly, no pun intended, rough.  It requires finesse, and less coarseness than the stripping of outside layers to reveal flaws.  It does, however, require a kind of openness, and going deeper than the surface.   

To understand reflection and change, consider the power and process of sandpaper.  A few passes with a belt sander and a dark wood table is transformed to its naked, original state.  It is only in this raw condition, actually so minutely “scratched” by the action of the tiny granules of garnet on the sandpaper, that it can accept new stain.  My Dad said something about the scratches, or grooves, providing the new material, stain or paint, a place to grip.  In this time of reflection, are we prepared to sand through the myriad layers in which we have wrapped ourselves?    

Committing to change is hard, and sticking with it is even harder.  We know we can’t take shortcuts with woodworking, painting over a piece of finished furniture hoping no sanding will be necessary.  Inevitably, the new paint doesn’t stick.  If we want to change in real and significant ways, short cuts probably won’t do.  We may need to get a bit rough on ourselves, and thoroughly scratch off old habits and patterns of thinking.  It may leave us a bit raw, but it is also the only way to make ourselves ready for the new.  Remaking ourselves is challenging work, with more than sawdust at stake.  But, if tiny pieces of sand can remake furniture, the human spirit, made in the image of the Creator, has limitless potential.

 With wishes that we all are able to make the changes we need and desire to, and that we be inscribed for a happy, healthy and peaceful new year .

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