I recently read Nick Offerman’s book (Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living). I’m a fan of the guy – he’s a good actor, in particular, and I love his character on the TV show Parks & Rec. If you’ve watched the show, I challenge you to try to read the book without hearing Ron Swanson’s voice/cadence with every single word.
The book was not what I expected – and other people were surprised, too, which is something that becomes apparent when you read people’s reviews and see the 1 and 2 star ratings – but I quite enjoyed it nonetheless.
Of the various things that stuck out for me, as I read, I was most struck by his points about making things. Real things. He talks about how completing digital tasks are all well and good but, generally, they leave almost nothing tangible behind. As he noted, there’s nothing wrong with that – but there’s a certain satisfaction in being able to hold, in your hand, the results of whatever you’ve been doing for the past hour/week/month/year.
I think this explains my jams and soups. My awkward crochet work. My unbalanced cross-stitch. My urge to attempt all manner of things – like rebuilding our shed or renovating the kitchen.
I derive a ridiculously huge amount of satisfaction from those things.
A few days ago I watched a documentary called “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga“. The people living in this Siberian forest have this incredible mix of tradition and (relative) modern convenience. It was fascinating, in no small part because the major part of each day, for some of the people, was taken up by the activities required simply to continue to exist.
I wonder, sometimes, how happy I would be to live that kind of life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my leisure (and god knows I’m lazy) but what if my options, for example, were to spend my day hunting – or not get to eat that day. Or what if I had the choice of making clothing – or freezing to death when winter arrived?
What does it feel like when your day is filled with purposeful activity? What is it like to see a direct and immediate impact from all of your actions?
This is part of my ponderings for 2014, by the way. More tangible and less intangible.
(Also, the book has a spectacular rant about pubic hair that I highly recommend reading. The man seriously has a way with words and oh, god, it’s good reading.)