My parents recently got a Wii, and when I was home over Christmas, I played a few games. The morning after three Wii Sports bowling matches and some baseball innings, my arm was sore—and it was my biceps, not tennis elbow. I realized that for the last three months, the 100 meter walk to the bus stop has been my notion of exercise. I am weak!
So it was both painful and thrilling to ‘help’ my dad today on the house he’s fixing up. I hammered, hauled, drilled furring strips into place and learned how to use two different kinds of power saws, and I went home sore. Feeling inspired by the pain, I went running—and spent the rest of the evening in bed with a heating pad, a cup of tea and a collection of short stories.
I am (or have been) well acquainted with manual labor. I idealize it, I am sure, and don’t intend to pursue it too vigorously beyond the years of my youth, but I was elated to go home with dirt on my hands. To spend the day tending to the physical structures of culture, whether they’re the plowed rows of a field or the exposed bones of a tired old house, to measure time by the voices on the radio instead of the clock on the computer screen, and to sleep well at night after having worked hard is to shine pure with joy.