Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Those of us who sew would not be surprised to learn that working with your hands is the new black. Last week I read in Slate that Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work " was the best self-help book that I've ever read" Buddhists have long felt that physical labor helps clear your mind, and the Shakers argued (gently of course) that honest labor was a form of prayer.
Sewing for me is a form of meditation, plus problem solving, with the satisfaction of a job well done. Most of the people that I know who garden or sew or paint are happy people. Yet those people I know who are mainly 'cube dwellers' without outside interests are often very cranky or cynical. I'm sure there is a connection here. Modern philosophers argue that the source of modern anomie is that we work in jobs that have no tangible results. But when we sew or quilt or knit or crochet, when we cook or garden or clean or paint, we have something to show for our labors. It makes us happy and it contributes to our mental health.
When I went to college, we were supposed to learn how to think. We didn't learn anything practical, like how to build furniture, or houses, or repairing machinery. It would be interesting if in the future students could have combined degrees that taught, say, French Literature or Architecture, or whatever, but also a little plumbing or woodwork as part of their education. Don't you think people would be happier if they learned a productive skill alongside a "thinking" one? That's why Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work is on top of my summer reading list. And since we are in the worst recession in our lifetimes, it might be healthy to reflect on the power and meaning of work, and what we bring to our work, and what our work gives back to us. I'd like to add more creative pursuits to my week. I've resolved to add more sewing time, and less "non-happy work" time to my schedule. Also as a nation it would be healthy to think about work as well. Keeping work local. Valuing our workers. Stuff like that.(That's the Berkeley girl coming out.)
I am reminded of those bumper stickers that say "I'd rather be fishing," or skydiving, or sailing. Notice how no one says they'd rather be making a power point presentation or backing up the system, or writing a report?
I'd rather be working in my sewing room. I like making things. It makes me a whole person (and now I have a book to back me up)
What would you rather be doing?