Monday, May 25, 2009

'the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real'

Really good article in the New York Times by Matthew B. Crawford. He presents a compelling critique of many kinds of modern work. His experience does not exactly match mine, though there is a lot that is spookily close. We finished degrees around the same time and maybe felt the same thrill followed swiftly by disappointment when we joined the workforce. A lot of what he writes on work seems right on to me. I especially like the following:

'Further, habits of mind have an ethical dimension that we don’t often think about. Good diagnosis requires attentiveness to the machine, almost a conversation with it, rather than assertiveness, as in the position papers produced on K Street. Cognitive psychologists speak of “metacognition,” which is the activity of stepping back and thinking about your own thinking. It is what you do when you stop for a moment in your pursuit of a solution, and wonder whether your understanding of the problem is adequate.'

And this:

'The good life comes in a variety of forms. This variety has become difficult to see; our field of aspiration has narrowed into certain channels. But the current perplexity in the economy seems to be softening our gaze. Our peripheral vision is perhaps recovering, allowing us to consider the full range of lives worth choosing. For anyone who feels ill suited by disposition to spend his days sitting in an office, the question of what a good job looks like is now wide open.'

He quotes from Marge Piercy's poem "To Be of Use", which is where the title of the post comes from.

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