Labor, Physical and Otherwise

For anyone out there who might be reading this, I apologize for having been awol the last few days. I could say I’ve been busy — part-time editing and part-time bicycle repair take up more time than I thought they would — but I could also simply confess I’ve been lazy. Which would be true too.

I try to work a couple of hours at the bike shop four days a week (not on weekends). It is tiring, good physical work that leaves me honestly tired, and I like that. Mostly tune-ups, as I said earlier, people bringing in their old bicycles that they found in a corner of their spider-infested garages or that have been sitting in a weedy patch out by the shed, people who decided that maybe riding a bicycle around would be good exercise and a way to save a few bucks on gasoline right now. Crummy old bikes, too, but my job is not to judge the cyclist or the bicycle, but to love it as I would my own (always hard, and one reason I no longer do computer work — I could never love anyone else’s computer like I love my own) and make it work. The things I hate working on the most are brakes, especially V-brakes (I do not know why anyone ever invented them) and thin 700cc road tires.

While men and women have striven very hard to increase leisure time and make remunerative work less strenuous, I think we’ve lost something by not having hard physical exertion in our lives. Some folks spend a lot of money to work out and get just that, all the while most human societies (and many individuals) continue to look down upon those who do physical work, thinking the best position to do a job is sitting. At a desk, maybe, and in front of a computer. This may be a result of the enslavement of human beings, this distaste for physical labor, since through most of human history, people were compelled to do that kind of work. I have concluded that it is very human to want to dominate others, to own them and their labor (and not merely rent their labor to produce your goods), and that regardless of how banned actual slavery is, men still seek to own the labor of other men.

Dominion — we as human beings seek dominion over other human beings even though God never gave it to us. The person of conscience does not seek dominion over others, does not seek to expropriate their labor or their wealth because the person of conscience understands that he is not entitled to the liberty or labor of others. But the person of conscience also understands that he cannot change the world, that some — maybe many — will seek to possess or control the lives and labor of others.

Well, this wasn’t going to be a discussion of general principles. Back to physical labor. Sometimes, my wife and I find ourselves living farm hours — going to bed before 9 pm, and waking just as the sun rises (a little after 5 am these days). It’s an honest tired, the tired I get from working hard. I sweat honestly, too. You can sweat while sitting at a computer, but it’s not an honest sweat.