1. Writing something
I've always felt uncomfortable being around writers, not because they are snobby or they have inside (literary) jokes that exclude poor readers like me--for they are some of the kindest you can ever be with--but because precisely of their lack of pretentiousness which only magnifies their mental and emotional powers. When something is hidden from your view, inaccessible, all the more do you revere it or fear it. I respect them to the point of being insecure partly because I had once wanted to be one of them, partly because I've realized I won't. But most of all, I respect them because they know very well where creation is accomplished--never in cafes or artsy restaurants nor in conference rooms or before an audience, but always only in the humility of a chair, a desk, where passions have to be named and Jacob's silent angel to be wrestled with till morn.
They look into each other's eyes, and you know they recognize each one's labors. They know how nights are longer for poets most of all, and how tiring it is to be overwhelmed by thoughts that you have not written but eventually must. They recognize that theirs is a craft usually without reward, and so they also respect each one's decision to dedicate a life to words and thoughts especially in a context which does not give importance and credit to both. Each one has his own reasons and his own insanity, and they don't have to ask why this art was chosen and that job forsaken. They know why they do what they do--while knowing as well that bylines are not given away or that the world will never truly understand your poem. And for me that is scary.
2. Building something
Every once in a while a man needs to build something concrete.
He becomes challenged to envision a product he foresees he will use and enjoy.
To gather materials and construct something with them.
To survey the progress, to make some changes and adjustments, to tinker with it, that is, to play with it.
To use his hands, more importantly.
Perhaps nothing is more immediately satisfying that concrete creation. The male species has been programmed to find satisfaction in building and repairing things due to millennia of having to construct sheds, houses, pyramids, structures, buildings, and cities. The satisfaction comes first of all in producing something necessary for survival; next in creating something useful; then at last in participating in the manifestation of beauty.
In contrast to understanding the world through concepts--the desire and vocation of the philosopher and the poet, the business of the scientist and the analyst--the builder creates what will be part of the visible world. While it is important to see with the mind, making something real and beautiful appear is not too shabby either. It is said that of all the art forms, it is architecture which is the most visible in terms of number, size, and use.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the twentieth century's most important thinkers, left teaching for three years so that he can help his sister build her house. When rulers and hammers and stones beckoned him, the philosopher of language abandoned the cool of the lecture hall.
The genius soon observed thus: "You think philosophy is difficult, but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect."
|Gretl Wittgenstein's house in Vienna |
designed and constructed by her brother Ludwig.