Wow, read this. It seems very appropriate.

I mean, not for me. I am thankful that I don’t particularly have to doublethink to enjoy my job. I do, a little bit, sometimes. Like “we shouldn’t be doing things like this” and also “really all I’m doing is making the company money” but those are both kinda false and I only feel that way when I’m particularly whiny. My work is kind of tangible, for being such an over-the-wire skill. But our economy is going more and more this way. I kind of hope we don’t get too detached from doing anything ourselves. The world is getting a little too specialized, and it’s like that because it’s a little too big.


Pete -

I really liked this safety line myself:

“In the boardrooms of Wall Street and the corridors of Pennsylvania Avenue, I don’t think you’ll see a yellow sign that says “Think Safety!” as you do on job sites and in many repair shops, no doubt because those who sit on the swivel chairs tend to live remote from the consequences of the decisions they make.”

Well found, sir. I dig it.

dwiegand16 -

It is a good article, but this sort of thing certainly isn’t for everyone, as you said (it’s not for me either). There are still only so many jobs working with your hands out there; manual labor is being hit just as hard as intellectual labor right now. And just because he had a crappy office job doesn’t mean they’re all less fulfilling than working on motorcycles. I have a ridiculously specialized, crazy job, but if some huge hurricane hit and an insurance company was able to pay out all its claims and people were able to keep their homes because of what I’m doing, I’ll feel damn good about myself. Even if it doesn’t happen, I still feel good knowing that I’m helping make sure things won’t go as terribly wrong if a huge disaster does happen.

Pete -

I don’t know yo…your thinking is too much like this xkcd. You can’t plan/think about/worry too much about worst cases, or ‘I COULD help someone out’. It sounds like that doubletalk that the dude was talking about in the article.

Not to be a downer on you…I just want to make sure we like what we’re doing, not what we might be doing.

dwiegand16 -

I’m certainly not saying my job is perfectly useful, and I’m sure at least some of the reason I do like my job is because I actually have one right now. I was going to to read the article a little more to have more to back up my argument, but now it seems to want me to register for the New York Times website, which seems like a lot of work, so I’ll just go on what I remember.

But I guess I don’t have much to argue, at that. My job is very abstract and specialized, and I like it because I can figure out how things work, how things fit together, without having to get my hands dirty at work (I’ve worked manual labor, it’s not really for me). I’m pretty sure I got at least close to as much satisfaction figuring out that some of our numbers were off because the insurance company we got the data from labeled some of their properties as bridges that were also retail stores and the two models we ran it on handled such obviously incorrect data differently as that guy gets from figuring out exactly what’s wrong with an engine. I’m standing by what I said, that just because he had a crappy office job doesn’t mean they all suck, and a job doesn’t necessarily have to be all meaningful and fulfilling to be enjoyable.

And once again, I’m not pretending this is what I want to do with my life for the long term, but I don’t know that I’ll ever find the perfect job for me. I’m content with a job like this that lets me do the things I love to do in my free time. As long as I can play frisbee and video games on nights and weekends, and occasionally go bowling or to the awesome bar with batting cages (drunk batting cages are amazing) I’ll be happy. I’m not going to give up looking for that perfect job, but until I find it I’ll be happy with what I have.

dwiegand16 -

Here’s an article that takes the other side:

Dan -

Both sides have gotten something wrong. I didn’t detect a lot of machismo in the original (pro-craftsman) article, which seems like the big thing this other (anti-craftsman) article is hating on.

Wait a minute. As I was trying to make names to disambiguate the two articles, calling them “pro-craftsman” and “anti-craftsman”, I realized what my bigger beef was with the anti-craftsman article. It’s that he’s anti-something, and the original article was pro-something. Dwight Garner (the anti-craftsman guy) is not saying “wait, the office life is good too, and here’s why”; he’s just refuting something that Matthew Crawford (the pro-craftsman guy) was saying.

Crawford throws out this sometimes-jagged spear of “There’s a problem and I solved it, at least for myself”, and Garner’s rounding off some of the corners. In that sense, this is the big question between the two guys anyway. Big picture vs. details. I like the big picture guy.

But then, also, it’s the pro- vs. anti- something. I’d rather this guy define his life positively. If you love working in an office, write an essay about how that’s great, don’t write an essay about how someone else’s life (that he thinks is great) is not really so great. (unless he’s doing something harmful, but I don’t think he is)

Pete -

Dan, was it you that had the good bit about ‘be pro, not anti’ as a general rule? Even if it wasn’t you, I feel like that’s a thing you’d subscribe to.

Cheers Dave, I definitely respek the ‘dude this is what I got and I’m rollin’ tack. There’s absolutely no reason to be dissatisfied with things that are good. I think my main takeaway was along the lines of what Dan was saying: desk jobs aren’t bad, just don’t hate on the craftsman jobs. All is good, and you shouldn’t disrespek.

I actually dig the article that you linked to, Dave. It was a book review really, rather than a philosophical counter-argument, and it seemed to make good points (I agree with Gardner that there’s nothing more annoying than over-idealistic pedestalizing of basic things like motorcycles). I think there’s good points on both sides (as always).

I guess the one thing I can say aggressively is: strive against comfort. The rest, then, is background.

Dan -

’s true. Boo pretense in all its forms.

Dan -

And, one more thing, comfort isn’t bad… it just tends to involve a trade-off where other things get worse, and these things should really be good instead of comfort.

Pete -

I think comfort is bad. There are times you need to be comfortable in order to survive (e.g. after a hard run, or a long day at work).

However, a comfortable life is a stagnant life. Settled != comfortable…you can live in the same place for five years, but still try cooking new dishes and going to new parties and reading new books and playing new sports. But when you’re comfortable, you re-read the same books and cook the same dishes and talk to the same people. This is the enemy.

Or at least I think :-)

Dan -

I think we’re just using different words to mean different things. I think you can be comfortable without being stagnant. Look at social comfort, for example: if you’re around people you really care about, whom you like to be with, you can be really comfortable, really growing, and really savoring the best bits of life (and if you’re not doing that, what else is there…)

Furthermore, if the ultimate goal is happiness, maybe some people will simultaneously get comfortable, boring, and enlightened. Yeah, they’ll be less cool, by your or my or anyone’s measure, but if they’re really digging it, maybe that’s what works for them.

I was going to get into “I think comfort and happiness are not mutually exclusive” but I won’t, because I think we’re just arguing semantics.

Pete -

This is an important semantic battle in my opinion though. I see it played out Taoism vs. Buddhism…from the Tao: “Shut all doors! Close all passageways! Don’t go outside your house!”. Extreme language, but basically sayin' “Don’t stretch it…live, love, but don’t necessarily lay it out. Live without striving, be without thinking, etc…”.

Whereas I see a lot of at least Zen philosophy talking about the meaningless of existence, even your own. Whatever it takes to get to Enlightenment is The Way, and there is No Way. But there’s definitely room in Zen for stretching, for crazy s***, Dharma battles, throwdowns, extremes, etc.

That’s just my read though. I see them both as cool ideas, and I’m still not sure how exactly they play out against each other. But I think this ‘semantic’ battle is a philosophical one that has deep, deep roots.

Dan -

Yeah, but I mean in this case I think we actually agree, in that we’d both rather throw down huge, do something crazy, etc, and reach enlightenment that way, rather than just be content and get boring. That’s what I mean by “semantics”- I think we were just trying to use different words to say the same thing. My definition of “comfort” implied less stagnation than yours, etc.

Huh! I never saw Taoism vs. Buddhism that way. But that’s an interesting look. I mostly couldn’t distinguish Taoism vs. Buddhism in practice, because I feel like they’d always agree, take the path of less wanting/striving/etc. (I mean, what do I know, ’s just what I thought) I see what you mean, though, and that IS a big battle! I think you can go either way, extreme or simple- external circumstances don’t affect internal happiness.

A real Taoist would probably weasel around this by saying “well, if you feel like you have to go bungee jumping to reach enlightenment, then go with it, that’s fine, that’s the Way for you.”

Pete -

I dunno.

Taoists wouldn’t have Dharma battles. They’re real stoked about the whole chillin', not messin' with the other guy.

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