Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hand versus machine.

"The machine has got to be accepted, but it is probably better to accept it rather as one accepts a drug -- that is, grudgingly and suspiciously. Like a drug, the machine is useful, dangerous, and habit-forming. The oftener one surrenders to it the tighter its grip becomes." -George Orwell, novelist (1903-1950)

The machine lifted another great big red-sandstone lintel onto our dry stone handiwork in Gualala Ca last week ( a lintel similar to the one Patrick Callon is standing under here ). Yes it was useful and it was dangerous, but as far as habit forming, Im not sure. When I am building with dry stone and there is someone using heavy machinery on the site,I think to myself, I will never get addicted to having them around.

I guess I have too much of a conflict of interest, I am grateful for the occasional introduction of mechanical help, but most of the time I would prefer not to introduce what seems like an unnecessary and annoying number of complexities into the equation. My hands ( and body ) really are content to work with the other hired hands lifting and moving stuff and not have to use motorized mechanical means. It is not idealistic or stupid. It is quieter, more healthy, in some ways safer, often more efficient and definitely on every level and at every stage of the progress of these projects ( and of the planet's )less environmentally detrimental. Among other things there is always the incessantly annoying sound of these bleeping vehicles as they back up everywhere, too. My, that is distracting, and not at all conducive to working creatively with one's hands.

I still feel bad turning down help from a contractor with a big machine just standing by with it's big motor running, roaring, thundering in the background. Do I need this moved, lifted, shoved, graded, buried, or pushed out of the way, he asks? Well, no, actually.

Any project has its labour intensive elements as well as the joy of the creative and less strenuous aspects. The more strenuous elements are part of the satisfaction of doing the job by hand. I like exerting myself rather than going to the gym, and so do most of the men I work with on a regular basis. So as far as machinery goes 'no thank you', unless it is absolutely necessary, like this huge lintel we had lifted in place, but again, I think we could have done it, the 4 of us, and had more fun doing it too.

Many hands make light work (and it is a lot quieter, too).

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