Axes and Chainsaws

Day 95 Week 14 Q2 Wednesday, April 5, 2023 

The term “ax” is a slang term that guitar players have used to refer to their guitar for many years because it is seen as a tool for creating music, much like an ax is a tool for chopping wood. I also think guitars have cut through music like an axe or a chainsaw.

I play some guitar every day as a way to relax and get centered. Sometimes this acts like a delimiter when I break complex projects into smaller tasks. 

This spring, there have been large winter storms where snow and large ice-laden tree limbs came crashing down, depriving many of power and, in general, creating a large mess requiring chainsaws to address.

As I was wielding my chainsaw after playing my axe, I realized they had a lot in common. They both were terrific at slicing large problems into smaller, more manageable ones.

Sometimes working on a complex creative project is like having an impassible driveway littered with tree limbs too large to drive over For those of you in warmer climates, or who are city dwellers, this is not something you ever have to think about. It happens a lot for those of us in northern rural areas, which is why I have three different chain saws. A gas-powered big one, a battery-powered little one, and an in-between electric one which requires a very long extension cord to be useful.

Similarly, most guitarists I know have more than one ax. The acoustic one for the living room couch, the electric one to play out in clubs and the old valuable one you got a long time ago, which you dare not take out of the house, especially to a bar.

All of these guitars and chainsaws do the same job. They break up the unmanageable into the manageable. And as such, they are a metaphor for life. We all need delimiters; sometimes, they are physical and metaphysical simultaneously.

What are your delimiters? A cup of tea? A walk in the woods or to the local cafe? Life has its storms, and they can produce a lot of fallout which gets in the way of our creative process.  Is your axe the word processor app or paint brush or camera? 

Sometimes it is time to start a new company, department, or initiative, and these can act as delimiters until they get complex enough that they, too, need to be broken into smaller pieces. For one, I constantly need to process complexity by breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces I can lift. 

I can not lift a tree, except for a very small one, but I can and do move trees all of the time by cutting them into smaller pieces. The same applies to composing a piece for an orchestra, writing a book, or anything too large to deal with in one gulp. And almost everything worth doing can not be dealt with in one gulp.

Find the axes, chainsaws and whatever delimiters you need to segment complexity into manageability.