Hands and Machines


I’m reading a fairly amazing book called “Living the Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing.  One of several standout quotes from the first section of the book is this one:

“Mankind has worked for ages with hand implements.  Machine tools are a novelty, recently introduced into the realm of human experience.  There can be no question but that machine have more power than humans.  Also there can be no question but that they have watered down or annihilated many of the most ancient, most fascinating and creative human skills, broken up established institutions, pushed masses of ‘hands’ into factories and herded droves of anonymous footloose wanders from urban slum to urban slum.  Only the historian of the future will be able to assess the net effect of the machine age on man’s joy in being and his will to live.

I think about this all the time, as I’m making things by hand in ways that have declined or almost disappeared since the industrial revolution.  And I have watched a similar thing happening lately to my husband Bryan with the explosion in digital photography.

I personally think that while some machines are truly labor-saving, we as humans still need to make things ourselves.  For self-fulfillment – I can’t go more than about a week without physically making something or I start to get unhappy.  And because when we make things, we learn and think about where they come from and what goes into them.  It helps us understand the materials that are available and the amazing creative power we each possess to craft our own ideas and dreams using these materials.

What do you think?

PS: I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in living even a little bit outside the box.  Even if you don’t agree with everything the Nearings believe, it’s inspiring to read the story of two people who chose their own path and followed their own hearts and minds.