Today I spent the entire day working with my hands. This is the first time I have done so in many years, for without a workshop and tools, my creativity has primarily been expressed in the digital world of film and computer programming.
In my parents’ driveway and garage, the same driveway and garage where I spent every evening and weekend through high school and college tinkering, inventing, and building, today I worked to mount a 100W solar PV panel to the top of my Subaru Forester and install a battery, charge controller, inverter, and A/C power strip. Another day to complete the project, it was a welcomed respite from time at my computer.
The kind of satisfaction that comes with dirt beneath the fingernails, a scraped knuckle or two, and the taste of sweat when the sun hits noon cannot be duplicated in any other way. My brother joked, “Oh?! Are you going DIY now?” knowing full well how much I scoff at that term.
I find the return to Do It Yourself a much needed counter movement to the automation of just about everything. Yet at the same time, I find it somewhat humorous that simply doing things on your own—from the repair of a washing machine to the preparation of food now requires a 3-letter acronym. Funny. Sad. Interesting too.
My grandparents’ generation knew nothing of automation, outside of the vehicles they purchased with parts manufactured and assembled. Everything they consumed, save bread, was grown on their land. All buildings constructed, repaired, maintained with their own hands. No one was hired to do the work. And no one was rewarded for a DIY job well done. It was the norm, the necessary foundation on which everyone involved in agriculture lived.
My parents’ generation did not desire to work as hard as their parents, to be encumbered to physical labor in the same way. Packaged, disposable goods combined with increasingly sedentary jobs in city centers reduced not only the time spent, but the skills associated with doing it yourself.
And now, come full circle, we recognize what was lost in that transition from too much physical labor to too little, for the kind of gratification that comes from having accomplished something on your own, with your own two hands, cannot be replaced by purchasing the equivalent product. It never will.