Friday, November 13, 2009

Be Handy

I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer - for work, for school, for recreation - it's all the same and it isn't all satisfying. I mean sure, I do good work on a computer, but when, after hours of sitting and typing all I have to show is a bunch of so-called "files" and "letters" on a screen - I mean, are those even real? :)
I was listening to this NPR podcast called To the Best of Our Knowledge, and there was a guy talking about the value of physical work and how it's becoming a lost art. Many of the "blue collar" professions are looked down on because we tend to value knowing things over knowing how to do things. The guy they were interviewing had written a book called Shop Class as Soul Craft. The guy had a doctorate in philosophy but he wanted to talk about why manual work is important - in general for the world at large and specifically for the people who do it. If you're curious, you can listen to it here. (I think it's the second segment of the show.)
About the time I moved away from home, I discovered that I really like putting things together or fixing things. I don't mean really complicated things like toasters. I mean easy things like clogged sinks (see photo) and smelly hair-filled vacuums. (Now that I think of it, many of the things I fix involve cleaning up after hair-shedding incidents.) I also like putting things together, like furniture from IKEA or floor lamps from Shopko. I like sewing on buttons and gluing things and hanging pictures (hammer time!) and anything else that involves doing something that ultimately results in something working better or looking better or coming together. (Strangely, cleaning never falls into this category, although I do like vacuuming. Dusting just seems like a losing battle against entropy, doesn't it?)
I like the feeling of self-reliance I get from fixing something or building something. I like knowing that I'm not afraid to stick my hand in the back of a toilet, and that usually I can solve the puzzle back there and get it to stop running. (Although sometimes this does involve a phone call to my dad, but being able to explain the problem and follow directions is also fulfilling.) It's satisfying to look at something, see what the problem is, remove the problem and move on with your life (usually with a clean floor and a quiet toilet).
One of my dad's very favorite quotes is from this ridiculous Canadian comedy show called Red Green. (It's on PBS and it's all about flannel shirts and duct tape. I offer an example below in case you're curious.) Anyway, the quote is "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy."
Now, let's be clear. I'm not advocating that you all go out and buy stacks of duct tape. That's not what this blog is about. But I think that sometimes feeling a little handy can create loveliness - around you and within you - just because you confronted hair in your drain and came out victorious. Build a shelf. Pick up a wrench. Use a hot glue gun. You'll like it.


Elise said...

I love the fact that you referenced the Red Green show. That brings back so many memories of staying up "late" on Saturday nights with my parents. We plunge our sinks often. And I LOVE putting things together. Lego building from instructions is like manna from heaven.

Nathalie Shorten said...

There's definitely a great feeling of accomplishment from doing something physical, from putting something together! I remember doing small things like adjusting the seat level on the kids' bikes and things like that and feeling very proud of myself. Kinda of silly but it's a great mood enhancer! We used to watch the Red and green funny and quite clever at coming up with unusual feats! BTW, my husband happens to be quite handy at making and fixing things on top of his other talents and I find this an attractive trait in a man which will last long after his looks have faded!