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February 25, 2005

On Being Human

Well, it's turned out to be another seventy-hour workweek, and that's not including blogging. It's helped, though, to get up early, rather than attempt vainly to stay up late, to do my from-home editing. It hasn't helped that the carpentry wipes me out.

It is nonetheless perhaps the best job that I've ever had, snow and icy mud notwithstanding. There's something about such work that just makes one feel, well, human. Manly, too, but mostly human. It is clearly and unambiguously doing. Building. Shaping the materials that God has given us.

Yes, of course an argument could be made that all work does this — whether in the office or in the lab. But particularly in the office, it takes some pondering among abstracts to see the materials and feel the doing; a sense of fleeting constructs tends to assert itself. I find myself wondering, while shin-high in snow and sawdust — and happy about it! — what our society's degree of leisure has cost us.

In this context, I think Jonah Goldberg cuts his topic short when he wonders what ideological changes technology might bring:

We have a tendency to assume that existing ideological categories are permanent. History is the study of the repeated debunking of such assumptions. The saddle, the stirrup, the moat, the locomotive, the telephone, the atomic bomb, the car, the computer, the birth-control pill: All of these caused tectonic changes in ideological arrangements, and all of them, save the last, were primarily innovations in transportation, communication, or war. The new earthquakes to come from biotechnology — "cures" for homosexuality, unimaginable longevity, real "happy pills" — could level all of the landmarks of our ideological landscape, even redefining the first ideology, conservatism.

The redefinition that we risk goes much deeper than ideology. Marching along like lemmings to the Sea of Uncontrollable Knowledge, with science rather than instinct leading us to a redefinition of humanity itself.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 25, 2005 10:53 PM

Actually, Justin, I've thought on more than one occasion about doing manual labor when I graduate college. It sounds crazy, but the thought of thrity years in a sterilized, soulless office environment sounds a lot worse to me than the same time spent actually doing something and learning a craft I can teach my children (international relations is just not one of those skills).

Posted by: Sage at February 26, 2005 8:41 PM


I certainly recommend it, and I've been trying to think of a non-distruptive way to work such experience into the lives of my children before they're too independent. After a year or so in a cubicle, I fell to counting my degrees of separation from anything natural.

Some form of back-to-basics kind of work is a hugely beneficial experience, I've found. It's good for perspective. It's good for the wallet. And it's good for the career. Most of all, it's good for the spirit.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 2, 2005 7:02 PM