it’s worth the wait… and you can have it now

14 04 2009
What makes you think I wont cut you?

What makes you think I won't cut you?

I went to see the Appleseed Cast tonight.  They were good, but as always, the sound at the 506 was not my favorite.  Is it just me, or do they hire aggressive, confused 15-year-old boys to work the soundboard?  Dudes, cranking all of the volumes up to 10 doesn’t sound “super tight,” okay?  It hurts.  It always hurts, and it doesn’t usually sound very good.

Anywho, before I went, I was able to cajole a friend of mine into coming out for a beer at the wine bar.  Enter Chris, who used to do my bidding at the dental school.  I’ve always enjoyed Chris because, among other reasons, he’s got a streak of modification mania that is not unlike mine.  He’s got something in him that won’t allow for accepting something as it is.  He hacks his iPod, he mods his consoles, and he generally loves to figure out how something he has works and make it work better.  He has an appreciation for the mechanics and potentials of things that many people, particularly people of his age group (or even mine), simply don’t.

So today, when I asked him what he’s been up to lately, I was a little surprised to hear him say “straight blades.”  I actually never got an answer when I asked him how he developed this fascination, but Chris has lately been into shaving his face (he swears that’s all) with a straight blade razor.  Old school.  He’s been buying old ones for restoration, which he’s been enjoying.  This isn’t the technological trickery I’m used to hearing about from Chris, which made me all the more fascinated with his newest hobby.  I mean, nobody uses straight blades anymore.  I can’t think of anyone besides my late grandfather whom I’ve ever known to own one.  I even have an electric that I quite like, though I have lately been shaving with my safety blade just because I enjoy the ritual of it.

And that’s what Chris likes so much about the straight blade.  It requires attention.  Skill.  Touch.  Sure, he told me, it takes him 10 more minutes to shave than his friends, but he gets to enjoy it more.  It’s not something you expect a 21-year-old guy to be extolling, but there he was, explaining that he found a measure of serious gratification from the deliberate effort of shaving like they did in the 50’s and beyond.

I was very excited to hear about his discovery.  We’re all so spoiled by the speed with which we can do things.  When is the last time you pulled out a dictionary to look up a word?  Have you ever been annoyed because a flight to the opposite coast takes six whole hours?  Astride our tedious complaints are a slew of continually invented products meant to capitalize by assuaging our petty annoyances (snuggies are blankets you can wear!).  People are losing touch with the sheer enjoyment that can be derived from taking our time and paying unbroken attention to the activities in which we’re engaging.

I mentioned to Chris that I had been buying my music on vinyl for a while now, and it’s not because I’m an audio snob who thinks the analogue recordings sound more rich or pure or deep or anything else; I really enjoy the deliberate action necessary in listening:  physically browsing and selecting an album, removing the disc from the sleeve, cleaning the record, placing it on the turntable, gently dropping the needle to the groove.  It is a ritual of intent that pleases me so much.  I could have much more easily just pressed play on my iPod.  But then, somehow, the music becomes as disposable as the action to start it was effortless.  The investment of time and effort that goes into playing a record makes for a personal payoff that seems greater than the sum of its parts.

So does straight blade shaving (Chris has promised me one of his refurbished blades!), and changing the oil in your car, or learning a musical instrument.  I don’t think it’s too dramatic to say that making an investment of craftsmanship into mundane or slow-to-reward tasks lends an air of personal satisfaction and accomplishment to the process.

When you take the time to do something that you could otherwise have done in an instant, you’re opening up an exchange of intent and meaning that you would have never discovered otherwise.  It’s why some of us love to work on our own cars while others of us can only be annoyed that our cars aren’t running properly.  It’s why some of us value preparing our food while others would prefer to hit the drive-thru on the way home and have dinner out of the way.

We all find it a little bothersome that we have so many tasks to do in a day.  So much of our lives is given to the maintenance of ourselves and our things that it’s easy to sometimes resent these necessary rituals, looking for whatever device will help us obviate as much of our effort as is possible.  But hey, you could as easily slow down and look to discover a way to enjoy the moments of your day, moving from one activity to the next feeling satisfied that your success was well-earned and brought you just a little more sense of pleasure and accomplishment.




One response

14 04 2009

that’s why I’m all crazy for the flat felled seams. It’s a love affair with effort and precision!

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