MacGyvering without knowing it

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As a child, I was fascinated with science and nature and had an inventive spirit. For instance, I can’t forget the aha moment in discovering how to adjust the wick of a kerosene lamp to reduce or increase the flame, or, later, in learning how an electric motor makes rotary motion possible out of the mere arrangement of magnets and activation of electromagnets at just the right moment. I was “MacGyvering,” “jerry-building,” and “life-hacking” long before I knew those terms, and it gave me such inspiration to discover that I–or anyone for that matter–have the power to create and design things that are useful and beautiful out of whatever materials are readily available. Your parents couldn’t afford to buy you a battery-operated toy car or playing cards or a Monopoly set? Why not make your own?

While my field of study didn’t turn out to be in engineering or science, and in fact I am now in editing and technical writing, an interest in things like technology, apps, alternative energy, and innovation, along with culture and language, have somehow remained, especially innovation that provides opportunities for those who have less in life (a concern that I am proud to have witnessed growing up in my parents). And I am hugely fortunate to be alive at a time when I can access great resources and references unimaginable only a generation ago. I hope I won’t let these opportunities pass.

These thoughts came to me after reading the first few chapters of Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (http://matthewbcrawford.com/), a book about how work–especially manual work–has become devalued, about how the modern bias toward academics in schools (and the stigmatizing of the trades) could in fact lead to high-prestige jobs that rob many of fulfillment. Give it a try here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html.

I hope that even if I only get to do it on the side, I get to work with people passionate about the same things, who share a philosophy/theology of technology that values using technical know-how and an intuitive bent toward tinkering and fixing for the purpose of enjoying the creative process in itself as well as for the purpose of stewarding the earth and human flourishing. The place of one’s calling, after all, is the place where one’s deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet.

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