I’m reading a book called Shop Class as Soulcraft, by a PhD graduate who dropped out of working at a big DC think tank because after all that struggle to attain that level, meaning was lacking from his daily work.
The book exemplifies the very reasons why I am living like I do, and writing this blog about it:
“What follows is an attempt to map the overlapping territories intimated by the phrases ‘meaningful work’ and ‘self-reliance.’ Both ideals are tied to a struggle for individual agency, which I find to be at the very center of modern life When we view our lives through the lens of this struggle, it brings certain experiences into sharper focus. Both as workers and as consumers, we feel we move in channels that have been projected from afar by vast impersonal forces. We worry that we are becoming stupider, and begin to wonder if getting an adequate grasp on the world, intellectually, depends on getting a handle on it in some literal and active sense.
“Some people respond by learning to grow their own vegetables…raising chickens on the rooftops of apartment buildings in New York City. These agrarians say they get a deep satisfaction from recovering a more direct relationship to the food they eat. Others take up knitting, and find pride in wearing clothes they have made themselves. The home economics of our grandmothers is suddenly cutting-edge chic – why should this be?
“…the new interest in self-reliance seems to have arisen before the spectre of hard times. Frugality may be only a thin economic rationalization for a movement that really answers to a deeper need: We want to feel that our world is intelligible, so we can be responsible for it. This seems to require that the provenance of our things be brought closer to home. Many people are trying to recover a field of vision that is basically human in scale, and extricate themselves from dependence on the obscure forces of a global economy.”