Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More on Meaningful Work

I spent the past few days alternately reading Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft and quilting to apocalyptic movies. I thoroughly enjoyed the Crawford book, although I did contemplate the gender issues that Crawford doesn't address. I doubt that even if I had the repair skills, I could make a motorcycle repair shop successful. Despite several decades of feminist successes, most men still wouldn't trust a woman to repair their bikes.

My fingers throb from quilting, but I suffer no illusions that I could translate that interest into a small business. Nor would I want to. I can't imagine quilting for 8-15 hours a day. And very few people would pay the amount of money I would have to charge per quilt to make a small quilting business profitable.

The New Yorker recently ran an article about several books on work (including Crawford's), the idea of craft, and the slow food movement. The author, Kelefa Sanneh, rightly notes some misogynistic strains in some of the books just emerging, and makes some interesting observations about our current work lives, and how we may later mourn their loss: "This nostalgic tribute is, of course, proof positive that hard jobs get much easier to love as soon as they start to disappear. If Crawford is correct about the decline of America’s information economy, we should brace ourselves for a series of mournful, indignant books that eulogize the modern office—a highly networked, quasi-social, semi-autonomous refuge, where turn-of-the-century workers spent their pleasant days solving problems, exploring the limits of co√∂peration, and wasting valuable company time on the Internet."

Over at The Valve, there's a discussion of the recent spate of motorcycle books, which focuses on Matthew Biberman's Big Sid's Vincati. The author of the post, Amardeep Singh, points out that many academics have work outside of academia that they find more satisfying than their primary work. What relief! You mean this condition is normal? Hurrah!

Perhaps it's not just limited to academia. It makes sense to me that many people, particularly those of us close to the midpoint of our working lives, would find passions outside work. That assumes, of course, that we have the luxury of working only one job that allows us personal time. I continue to be alarmed at how work insinuates itself into our time that's supposed to be off the clock.

But for now, I'm on vacation from work--using up the last of my leave days before the new fiscal year starts July 1.

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