Take a few minutes to watch this film. It's about a family of Netsilik people building a kayak way up in the icy wastes of northern Canada.
The people in this film have 'clever hands' - an ability to take the most unpromising tools and materials and turn them into something incredible. In the arctic, basic resources like wood and steel are scarce, but the Netsilik make everything they own themselves: harpoons, canoes, snow shoes, fur clothing, boots and Igloos (there's enough snow...). In this film they make a canoe using a tiny bow-drill, a saw and a few bits of driftwood. In spite of this they still manage to make a beautiful, strong and water dynamic craft that will last a lifetime.
People sometimes think of the hunter-gatherer way of life as 'primitive', but the mental capacity needed to be able to do such a wide variety of things is huge, and scientific research suggests it's also incredibly good for the brain. These days many of us are increasingly passive consumers, we only learn how to do one job in life and we pay other people to do everything else for us. But research also suggests that this narrow, passive way of living may be bad for us and that our brains are happier doing a wider varity of things for ourselves - and getting effort-based rewards.
For tens of thousands of years until the industrial revolution, humans made almost everything ourselves. We had a broad set of skills and could turn our hands to any task. Now we all specialise in one area, and everything we own is made by machines.
This is extremely convenient, but it’s a rather narrow, unsustainable way of life and ultimately leaves us feeling slightly empty and unfulfilled. The enormous reward centre in our brain associated with making lies dormant. We all feel like we should be able to do something with our hands, it’s part of being human, but most of us can’t.
We all know about the benefits of exercise, but making things is just as beneficial in a different and arguably deeper way. Every time we make something our minds improve, and we leave the process better and more capable than when we started. It builds confidence, self-reliance and even a sense of meaning and purpose that we can’t get from anything else. Not only can making make you feel great, it can also be a key tool for weathering life’s storms.
We can't all go back to the hunter-gatherer age, but at MYOWN2HANDS we're starting a movement to encourage people take a small step back towards that approach to life. To learn a new skill, start to create a bit more - rather than always consume - and to experience the profound benefits that come with making things yourself that you can really use - a basket, a spoon, a jumper or even a canoe! It's all coming soon.
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