I’m a total CBC podcast junkie. I have at least a dozen or so programs that I subscribe and listen to weekly. I love thoughtful talk radio and my workplace isn’t really conducive to listening to the radio, so I try to keep up with my favourite shows this way.
Recently I was listening to an episode of Spark called “Work 2.0”. An interview between host Nora Young and silverorange CEO Dan James about his recent foray into building renovations, in addition to the work he does with his web development company, completely hit home for me. They discussed the idea of intangible work — that which many of us do every day as we work on computers in virtual environments or pushing paper — in contrast to tangible work, or that which we do with our hands: building, creating, producing some kind of obvious, real-world result.
Many years ago I read something, somewhere, that continues to resonate within me. I can’t remember where I saw it for the life of me, but it was about the idea that man takes no greater pleasure than that which is found in labor. It had to do with the idea that we are not beings intended to laze about and do nothing with ourselves. We create all kinds of gadgets and systems and machines to make our lives easier and more convenient, but ultimately these stripe away that which gives us the most satisfaction – working with our hands.
I grew up in an environment where I worked hard (my Mom is reading this right now, guffawing no doubt). Farming is a lifestyle that keeps you busy. Animals need care. Machinery needs fixing. Crops need planting and harvesting. Land takes a lot of maintenance (I don’t even want to think about how many farrowing crates I had to pressure wash, or horse shit I hauled out of the barn). I believe that lifestyle instilled in me a deep need to create, to work, to build, to make. My partner, and my friends, make comments all the time about my industriousness. How do I do it? How to I make it all fit? Why do I bother? The answer is I need to. It keeps me grounded. Handwork fulfills me in a way I can’t fully express. Cooking and baking my own food is so satisfying. Growing it is even more rewarding. Knitting creates beautiful objects that have a part of me woven into them which I can share with others. Even cleaning the house has some kind of therapeutic effect on me. It takes me out of my head, where I spend so much of my time throughout the work week.
Another important drive for me, I think, to be so industrious away from the office is because it completes my sense of identity. I’m someone entirely different when I’m away from the office and this is incredibly important to me. In many ways I think I’m truer to my real self outside the office. But alternatively, this “self” informs what I do there, and helps me problem solve and reason through situations in ways I don’t think I would have the skills to do if I didn’t take the time to be physically industrious and “get out of my head” regularly.
On a final note, I highly recommend you take a listen to the full audio from a speech given by Giller Prize winner, medical doctor and author, Vincent Lam. It will inspire you to be everything you ever wanted to be.