For many of the folks working on this timber-frame project, the axe was and is the physical embodiment and symbol of these alternative possibilities that are available to us. The simple act of taking up tools is a trailhead to the path toward independence. With them, we wield the means to build the world we want to see. It is a small thing to learn to use an axe. But a life comprised of many such down-to-earth and constructive decisions is the framework for a new way of seeing the world – one rooted in empowerment, compassion, and freedom.
As one of the CSF carpenters, Florian Carpentier, put it, “[The axe is] one of the most basic tools since humanity [came into being]. And with just these few tools, some of them I am able to make myself, I can build comfortable, durable houses to shelter people. Many people are nowadays in a quest for meaning in their life. They don’t see the point anymore in working so much, to earn so much money, to spend so much money, to have so little time for family and friends and themselves. You have the slow food movement; we are the slow construction movement. It’s a provocation. It’s like sabotage to the big machine. We show that we are able to go against the machine at our little level. But we have an impact. Even though it’s small, we have an impact, and we must use it. It’s not like I will save the world with my timber frames, but at least I do not destroy the world, which is already very good.
“Whatever you can do to make sabotage, you have to do it. [For my part,] I participate in creating good living conditions for people who will live in my houses, and I contribute to maintain the balance of nature and the ecosystem by using local trees, low technologies, and low-impact processes. This is meaningful because the important thing we need is not the machine, it’s what I have in my hands: my skills. The human is put back in the central position in the process of building.”
–Joshua A. Klein, excerpt from “Showing Us What is Possible: A New Vision of Work from Charpentiers Sans Frontières,” in Issue Eight