Friday, June 19, 2009

Random Ramble Re Real Work

I was reading a piece about this new "movement" of trying to get in touch with real work again and thought my friend Alice could write an excellent article about it, taking it either way. She and her husband George bought some land in Arkansas and now are living on it, with no hot water and plenty of cats and chickens and other birds. They are constantly in motion mowing, or harvesting their own food, or collecting eggs and selling them. I could see Alice writing a straight up essay about starting out in your 60s and 70s to farm--or more likely a fairly hilarious sendup, popping the neo-meaningful work balloon.

The piece about the real work movement is in the latest New Yorker, bouncing off an article in the Times Magazine by a Matthew Crawford, who repairs motorcycles and thinks everyone would be better off doing some such "real work" too. Used to be, a mechanic like Crawford might say writing is his real work; but nowadays he can get more published by saying he's really a mechanic!

I certainly agree that more people need to go into the trades; but I personally would prefer to work in a cubicle, because I can't lift anything heavier than the phone and a piece of paper. I did plenty of unreal temp work back when we needed money: One time in a police academy, several stints as a legal assistant, lots of typing and filing. At worst it was at least air conditioned and at lunch I could trot over to a little fridge in a lunch room to get my yogurt. Lunch was my favorite part.

And also getting to go home after eight hours. If real work were all that was available to make money I would not survive. I don't even have the physical capacity to cut my own grass or do more than pull up a weed or two in the front. But then I wonder if doing what you have to to take care of house and family is real. Because Mr. Crawford sounded like a real chauvinist in his motorcycle shop.


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