Matthew Crawford has written an unexpectedly powerful book about the importance of what he calls manual competence - being close to the tools that make our comfortable lives possible. Too many of us have become too distant from the things, the machines, in our lives. We hire people who hire people to actually get under the hood, hang the lights, saw the wood, fix things. And in that distance, something profound is lost. He writes about the disposition you have to the thing you are trying to fix. "This disposition is at once cognitive and moral. Getting it right demands that you be attentive in the way of a conversation rather than assertive in the way of a demonstration. I believe the mechanical arts have a special significance for our time because they cultivate not creativity, but the less glamorous virtue of attentiveness." Fascinating.
Crawford comes to this position with unique qualifications. He succeeded in academia, having achieved his PhD, taught at the college level, gone on to the think tank in Washington. He found each of those endeavors wholly unfulfilling, and abandoned his chosen path to be a motorcycle mechanic. He writes, "fixing things may be a cure for narcissism."
I found myself underlining with a vengeance in this book, something I haven't done in many books. Crawford argues, "there may be something to be said, then, for having gifted students learn a trade, if only in the summers, so that their egos will be repeatedly crushed before they go on to run the country." I recommend wholeheartedly this surprisingly thought-provoking book - Shop Class as Soulcraft, An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford.