Working with your hands

I recently moved into a house that was under construction for over a year. Visiting the site every day and watching it change from dirt to home gave me great respect for people who build (and fix!) things with their hands. Typing emails doesn’t seem like “real work.”

This fantastic article by Matthew B. Crawford makes the case eloquently:

“A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children. It runs through a series of gates controlled by prestigious institutions. Further, there is wide use of drugs to medicate boys, especially, against their natural tendency toward action, the better to ‘keep things on track.’”

At least when I wrote code I felt like I had done “real work” that day. Now that I spend my days thinking, talking, and processing email, I feel like something is missing. I think that’s why I’ve been doing so much cooking: we knowledge workers need to make something once in a while.

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” – John William Gardner


2 thoughts on “Working with your hands”

  1. The one thing about building something with skill–something like a house or a piece of furniture is that it has “permanence.” Coding is work, but you’ll always have to revise it. Music is even more ephemeral- exists spatially in a fragment of time, then it’s gone. And all that practicing, sheesh.
    In the end though, building into people is probably the only thing that matters or lasts.

  2. Every once in a while I have to get out of the office and into the garage; if for no other reason than to make mountains of sawdust.

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