On Lines

Sharpen your mental tools


When was the last time you made something? And by ‘made something’ I mean created something physical from scratch – a cake, a shelving unit, a sculpture or a cardboard model with your child. In these days of laptops, mobiles and tablets, we may feel more in touch with the world, but in fact our contact with the physical act of making is diminishing. And yet this activity is fundamental to human wellbeing, an instinct almost as old as mankind itself.

(If you doubt this, take a look at the 40,000 year old sculptures in the new British Museum show Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind.)

After a few hours of surfing and texting, chances are you feel hollow and hyper. But after a spell of making you feel replete and calm. Under-stimulated areas of your brain will light up with pleasure and you’ll return to your more cerebral tasks refreshed and brimming with ideas. Richard Sennett, in his book The Cratfsman, writes of the particular brand of intelligence that resides in the hands rather than the brain. Not for nothing do we use three-dimensional language to talk about the deepest processes of thought: ‘grasping a concept’ or ‘considering something from every angle’.

Give your screens a break and your hands a problem to solve, and all kinds of unexpected things can happen.

For more information, visit: www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/ice_age_art.aspx