Are you ept?


I woke up this morning wishing that I were ept.

I know quite a few people who are ept. A friend and colleague who, although he was a successful academic, makes beautiful musical instruments and bakes cakes. A neighbour who professionally is a geologist is also a master gardener and garden designer. And can put in watering systems. An administrator in the security business who also builds barns, installs kitchens, creates entire decorative wheelbarrows out of wood. A son who creates a virtual reality business but also built, along with his father in law, a pole house.

These people all do demanding intellectual and creative jobs but also are able to do a myriad of practical tasks.

And then there are others, like yours truly, who are inept. In grade eight, I passed the shops course because when I was using the lathe, I pressed too hard on the chisel, the chisel slipped and my thumb got lathed. I’ve still got the scar. For the rest of the year the teacher kept me away from moving objects and sighed with relief when the course was over and I hadn’t done any more damage to myself. He wasn’t going to risk having me retake the course by giving me a failing grade.

As I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, I asked myself what is it that makes someone ept?

It’s not just being good or really good at what one does for a living. I mean, if you worked in a bakery, your boss could say he’s inept because your Danish’s were lopsided, your croissants didn’t crunch. But to me, being ept means the ability to do a wide range of tasks outside of how one earns a living. Our family doctor in Gimli used to win prizes for his embroidery. When someone snickered, he said you’ll be glad of my embroidery skills when I have to sew you up. So, I’m not sure if that’s far enough outside his profession to make him ept.

I wonder if eptness is something we are born with or whether it is the result of experience, the old nature or nurture conundrum. Is it the result of good eye/hand coordination? Is it a matter of self-confidence? Are epters the yes, I can people and the inepters are the no I can’t people?

Does eptness come from being around family members who have a wide range of skills and problem solving abilities? Does it come from a model that is available when we are young? I know how important modeling is. Before you can do something, you have to imagine doing it. That isn’t as simple as it sounds. Family, neighbours, community, church, school—all sorts of individuals and organizations, both large and small, give out the message, you can’t do that. Or, you shouldn’t do that. Or, someone like you shouldn’t do that.

I give credit to Steina Kristofferson for modeling being a writer. She wrote a novel called Tanya. Someone I knew, a former teacher, wrote a book and it was published. A local person, an elementary school teacher, someone I knew could have a book published. She was ept. Knowing her, she did many other things as well, but with that publication, it was obvious that she did more than just teach school.

Maybe being ept is about not being limited by what one does for a living. Maybe that’s what hobbies are about, what recreational sports are about, what passionate participation is about. Maybe it is about self-image and not being locked into a self-image that others have created for you. I think for many people self-images are like the suits of armor that the knights of Yore used to wear. Except they can’t take them off. They clank through life with all their movements restricted by their armor, never taking the risks that eptness requires.