Thursday, January 26, 2017

Laborare est orare.*

I have a Facebook friend, someone I knew vaguely a long time ago from one job or another, who built in his garage a wooden boat. A sturdy New England wooden boat, a dory, I guess, of the sort New Bedford whalers might have manned as they hunted cetaceans almost to extinction.

Every day, or every other day, he would post a picture on Facebook showing his progress. The wood he would plane, the joints he would seal, the ribs of his boat. 

Over the course of a year or so, I got to watch the boat being built. It was like watching one of those old National Geographic documentaries on a foal being born on some farm somewhere.

I've always envied people who have skill in their hands and mechanical knowledge in their heads. As I write this, for instance, my friend Chris has taken apart his ancient washer and dryer, which apparently were neither washing nor drying.

He's posted pictures of various parts of his machinery spread all over his linoleum basement. In a day or so, if I know Chris, his appliances will be up and running, probably better than when they sprung from the Maytag factory twenty years ago.

I think about things like this and look at my own hands with disappointment. As far as dexterity goes, it's all I can do to double-knot my Cole-Haan's.

Then, yesterday, we had, as usual, an unusual lot of pressure at work. A raft of television spots had to be written in a short amount of time.

To be completely honest, though I have been doing this for a long time, it was pretty daunting. I take great pride in my work, and the work I do has to meet a terrifically high-standard. My own, my agency's, my clients'.

That could be a prescription for emotional paralysis--when you have too much to do and you're not sure if you can do it.

But then I realized I was building my equivalent of a small wooden boat or putting together a washer-dryer.

I had to plane one board at a time. I had to be careful and methodical and structural and construct some things I realize I had built with my hands and my brain a thousand times before.

No matter what people say about the nature of work in a world marred by pernicious income inequality, there is something wonderful and fulfilling about working.

Even if the boats I worked on yesterday never get to sail.

* Laborare est orare. Latin for "To work is to pray."

No comments: