Friday, May 29, 2009

The Good Life Comes in Many Forms

Friday, May 29, 2009

Matthew Crawford made a compelling—yet romanticized—case for working with our hands in his essay published in the New York Times:

…Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible result from your efforts. What exactly have you accomplished at the end of any given day? Where the chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive...

…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...

…A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this...

His piece evokes nostalgia and verges on being overly sentimental but not quite going all the way there. Though not agreeing entirely with what he wrote, I find his arguments valid and substantial. It brought me back to my yearning for the quiescence of a bucolic life and reminded me of what D and I half-jestingly plan to do: start a farm and build our dream beach house with our bare hands.

The good life comes in a variety of forms. This variety has become difficult to see; our field of aspiration has narrowed into certain channels. But the current perplexity in the economy seems to be softening our gaze. Our peripheral vision is perhaps recovering, allowing us to consider the full range of lives worth choosing. For anyone who feels ill suited by disposition to spend his days sitting in an office, the question of what a good job looks like is now wide open.

6 comments:

Agnes said...

The beach house with the farm sounds so romantic, Angeli :-)

Angeli said...

yes, Agnes. it's like what Candide ultimately decided - the best thing in the world is to cultivate one's own garden. :)

Anonymous said...

i am pretty good in building anything with my bare hands. no tools, just hands. :)

Angeli said...

hahaha.. even neanderthals have tools. :)

unstranger said...

The tactile experience comes with a hidden catch. It makes one deeply spiritual. The more one works that way the more one realises the necessity of acknowledging the presence of the spirit in all things. Farmers understand this and don't conceptualise it, they just understand it.

If you go that route you will achieve a whole new relationship with the world.

For myself, I worked for many years with wood. Carving and turning and I found the same experience as the farmer does.

However, the poet and the artist finds similar; the writer too eventually.

Angeli said...

Unstranger, this is so out of the topic, but when you mentioned "tactile experience", it reminded me of the feeling of having an actual book in my hands--flipping its pages-- as against how we experience a book via devices as the Kindle.

Going back to your comment, I long to experience that "whole new relationship with the world" brought about by working with ones hands as you did. as farmers, poets and artists do.

 
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