Zen and the Art of Building with Our Hands

The quarantine provided a few silver linings. Time and creativity just to name a few. It was a time I rediscovered the power of using my hands to build something.

Now I’m not green to the practice of building. My dad was a great at-home woodworker building furniture, decking, and anything else we needed around the house. I tinkered, hammered, and drilled in those days, too. In high school I took woodworking and drafting. I’ve always taken on DIY challenges at home.

On top of that, I learned everything from hand tools. Little-to-no power tools. Hand drills, chisels, hand saws, screwdrivers, hammers, sand paper, you name it.

But like many others, knowledge work and technology have crept into many aspects of our lives. Working in complex systems, email maneuvering, and the seemingly unending trail of learning ever-updating programs have us endlessly tethered.

With time on my side and a desire for new projects it was time to get back to the skin on my hands. Sure, I’m an avid weightlifter with plenty of time under the iron to callus my hands, but building your body and building something to step back from, wipe your brow, and open a beer to is completely different.

The wife wanted a raised garden box. Too easy right?

If I was going to make a raised box I wanted to over-engineer it and make something that will last. I took my time, measured thrice, and took to it with tempered enthusiasm. I was that kid again.

Shift

Building, repairing, fixing, making, or whatever you can do with your hands stands the test of time. It is in our DNA to return to creating in the real world with tangible material that we can manipulate, form, cut, drill, and combine. It is creating in the world.

There’s something primal and domineering about building something with your hands. A computer engineer can program a new algorithm, but what about hanging a ceiling fan?

Now this isn’t a shot at knowledge workers. Heck, I’ve been in that game for some time now. I consider myself savvy at tech and have an incredibly open mind to learning. But, returning to, even for a little bit of time, hands-on work is like entering a Zen state of mind.

  • You enter a calm state of focus.
  • You forget your surroundings.
  • You enter flow.
  • You problem solve.
  • You tend to forget your other to-dos.
  • You can see you progress in real time.
  • You believe every speed bump has a solution.
  • You can actually touch your work.

Ultimately you step back and realize you made that.

***

What about you? What do you consider your refuge away from tech, stress, and other things out of your control?

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