Friday, May 29, 2009

Marinating in anger

It's Friday. TGIF, right? Not for me. I'm working allllllllll weekend. So obviously it's got me thinking about how being chained to the office is bad, being in front of a computer is butt, working for the man sucks, blah, blah, blah.

If you know me at all, you'll know that I'm all about crafts and skills. All I ever want to do is learn how to do things with my hands. Fix bicycles, cook, garden, build things, sew, silkscreen, play music, knit...Not sit. Hunched over. Suffering tension headaches and pinched nerves, going blind staring at a computer.

So, I was pretty excited to see Boing Boing's blog post yesterday about this book called Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford. It's about the importance of using your hands to make and fix things and how there's such an emphasis on "knowledge" work whereas the trades are viewed as inferior occupations. As if tradespeople are too dumb to do other work or have no other choice.

Crawford raises a bunch of interesting thoughts. It's great to have ideas people, but you also need the skills to bring about the execution. When I think of my high school life, I'm always stricken with regret. I went to an academic high school where the focus was on intellectual development. That's fine and dandy, but I really wish I had the option of taking art or shop classes. This school didn't even have a gym. Our options were French and music. My parents enrolled me into the school because of the "competitive edge" it offered for getting into university. I'm not dissing university here, but I do wish I had more of an eclectic training growing up. I liked what I learned in school, and I love writing, but I also have this obsessive need to gather as many tangible DIY skills as possible. There's something ingrained in me that needs to be able to fix things or at least figure out how something works.

I guess not everyone is supposed to take that academic route, but more and more kids are being pushed in that direction, and I'm convinced that's not healthy. It's creating generations of stressed out adults with poor posture.

I saw this video last week:

Ironically, civilizations that worked so hard to move from physical labour have moved to occupations that are just as oppressive. It's not as labour-intensive, rather mental-intensive. People are wigging out and stressing!

I really think there is something to be said about working with your hands. It's part of human nature. It's just so satisfying and comforting. And ironically, instead of doing something with my hands and mad skillz, I just spent a bunch of time writing about it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A gentleman's pursuit

A few days ago Boing Boing posted this article from The Atlantic about happiness. It focused on a study of men and their lives that spanned over seven decades! There has never been a longitudinal psychological study this exhaustive, extensive and detailed as this one. The men were interviewed, went in for physicals and completed surveys every few years up until their deaths. The study focuses solely on men, Harvard sophmores---JFK was apparently a participant but his files are sealed until 2040!

So the article got me thinking about the path to happiness and the pursuit of pleasure. If there is a straight and easy way to achieve a goal or obtain happiness, you can bet your balls I won't take it. I have this deeply ingrained notion that I have to suffer in order to get what I want. That means getting to grandma's house involves trekking through the Making-it-harder-for-myself-in-any-way-I-can Woods instead of simply hoping into a cab and whizzing straight there. I can't help it considering my upbringing. Catholic AND Chinese?! We were fed guilt for breakfast. Suffering IS salvation.

Why do I do this to myself? And on a greater level, why do we do it to ourselves? Why's it so hard to treat ourselves, and why do we always feel the need to justify it when we do?

Is it the recession? (The recession is my current favourite scapegoat explanation. Somehow I don't think so, as I've always felt guilty even during times when the economy's rollin'.

Could it be the puritanical nature of our ancestors? Maybe. The whole idea of relaxation and pleasure is so unnatural to us. Stress is pretty much ingrained in us, that even on vacation, we can't seem to relax.

I do know this though. Happiness is bunch on Sunday. And I refuse to feel guilty about that.

(I snagged the pic from