Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Soul of/in Work

Matthew B. Crawford is the author of the upcoming book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, as well as this fascinating essay in The New York Times.

The essay is an exploration of his careers, jobs, trades, and missions. Crawford holds a Ph.D. in political philosophy from a prestigious university and is currently employed as a motorcycle mechanic. He contrasts the unreality of work in the information age with the objective physical realities of manual trades. Success is less subjective and more tangible when repairing a motorcycle.

This is not your typical I-was-dying-in-my-cubicle story. Crawford is writing about the need to do important, or at least useful things; tasks that make the world a better place, even in a very small way.

I went through a phase like that during, well, most of my life, I suppose. But I've outgrown it. Now I only care about getting a paycheck, whether or not the work is consequential. I'm more Tyler Durden than Matthew Crawford.

Well, maybe not Tyler Durden. I don't seek to sabotage society; I just don't care about it. Still, I can understand Crawford's point of view and the mental space that he presently occupies. And it's always a good idea to learn a trade, anyway.

HT: Arts Journal


Larry B said...

In my work, I do a lot of "tinkering" around in a digital world. I can rely on my simulation programs to be close enough to real life to do a lot of "work" in a virtual world. I find this just as satisfying as any trade work. I think it has more to do with whether what somebody is doing is activating the brains reward system to release the chemicals that signal a "feel good" response.

John said...

I suppose it can be fun to fix my car. And for it to function after I'm done. That can have a satisfying feel.