When I was setting up my home office, I bought a big butcher block slab from IKEA and turned it into a desk. I bought pre-made table legs and applied several layers of urethane, sanding between coats to make it smooth. I did it with the garage door open on a warm day, and it was very satisfying. It reminded me of making things out of wood with my father.
In the end, I had a desk. Not only was it a functional item I needed, but it was something I made myself. It certainly wasn’t a difficult or complicated project, but it was one of only a few things (that didn’t get eaten) that I’ve made with my hands in many years.
I did help make a baby, but that’s not really germane.
This morning on Facebook, a friend showed a picture of a table leg he had made to replace one broken in a move. I realized how satisfying it must’ve felt—not only the physical process of creating the object, but also the feeling of self-sufficiency.
I create things every day. At work, I create ideas and solutions to problems. Or, to put it cynically, I create slide decks and emails. At home, I cook meals and make up bedtime stories. I take pictures and post them online, I occasionally write blog posts and I blurt out ideas and random thoughts on Facebook. I have plenty of outlets for intellectual creativity.
But I feel like I’m missing out on something by not creating more things with my hands—tangible objects that can be touched and held. Physical representations of ideas and thought and effort and expertise.
I wonder if a farmer fixing a plow 150 years ago got the same satisfaction I got from making my desk. Did his wife get more satisfaction from making clothes for her family then her modern counterpart gets from watching TV?
My son loves nothing more than making things out of Lego. So do lots of kids. Is that a manifestation of an innate desire to make and build? Is that something we need to nurture to keep it from being lost as kids get older?
Actually, come to think of it, what he loves most is watching TV.
I think we may have discovered the crux of the issue right there.