Work with your hands

Clive Thompson’s Wired column in the March issue is a great testament to working with your hands. He starts the piece by talking about his struggle in trying to put a steampunk clock together; his soldering skills were deficient.

    “Why am I so inept? I used to do projects like this all the time when I was a kid. But in high school, I was carefully diverted from shop class when the administration decided I was college-bound. I stopped working with my hands and have barely touched a tool since.

    As it turns out, this isn’t just a problem for me — it’s a problem for America. We’ve lost our Everyman ability to build, maintain, and repair the devices we rely on every day. And that’s making it harder to solve the country’s nastiest problems, like oil dependence . . . . “

Wasn’t it just last week I talked about the importance of innovation, wondering where it had gone in America? And a couple weeks before that, didn’t I mention a verse in the Bible that exhorts us to “work with our hands?”

Apparently there is a bit of a do-it-yourself (DIY) revolution here in the states as we speak (or type). Scientists, according to Thompson, have discovered how important it is to use your hands — to be mechanically apt — which uses a different part of our brains than “sitting and cogitating.” I recall something in the news last year that pointed to the success of places like Lowes and Home Depot, typical stops for DIY-ers purchasing products for the projects.

I wonder about the accuracy of applying the word “revolution” with respect to the popularity of steampunk and profit margins of big-box home supply stores. Regardless, this resurgence is good news.

Personally, I feel the need for both sitting and cogitating (which is largely what this blog amounts to) and working with my hands. In a culture supersaturated with electronic media, computers and computer related employment opportunities it can be very difficult to get hands-on time with anything. Our jobs are done in front of a computer and our recreation regularly involves televisions, computers and video games. We are a quite sedentary society, which is unhealthy physically and mentally according to the neuroscientists Thompson cites. We use electronics to a fault, perhaps, instead of treating them as tools they act as a crutch. “Notably,” Thomson concludes, “all this is happening outside our broken education system. America is healing itself at the grass roots — rediscovering the mental joy of making things and rearming itself with mechanical skills.”


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

One Response to Work with your hands

  1. Tim J. says:

    This makes me glad I had the chance to catch up on some honey-do chores around the house today… fixing a leaky sink, taming some errant weatherstripping… nothing requiring a lot in the way of either brawn or skill, but fulfilling none the less. I used to do a great deal more of that kind of thing.

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