I was supposed to be at a conference in London this week. I cancelled at the last minute, leaving a bunch of people to cover for me. I am grateful to them, and apologetic about the other holes I left behind.
While I had other reasons for canceling, it was an act of miraculous timing that I did. The day I was supposed to leave, my house flooded. A sump pump failed and water started seeping into the finished basement. If I hadn’t been home to catch it, it would have kept going for days and days, because I would have been out of town, and the person who lives in that part of the house was also out of town. Luckily his belongings stayed dry (small miracle there), but my winter break is now about tearing out a basement and rebuilding it so the person who lives there has someplace to sleep when he returns from his vacation.
Also lucky for me he is mellow and awesome. And a contractor sent over someone to help me remove some built-in bookshelves. And I’m learning how to do drywall. And while this is a giant PITA, it also reminds me how much I like doing things with my hands, and what a compliment the kinesthetic is to the visual. I spend the bulk of my days reading, manipulating paper and keyboards. Working with a mitre saw and hand tools and sandpaper and caulk reminds me that part of my hesitancy about the extent to which technology drives our lives is, I think, driven by the sense that losing touch and the manipulation of physical artifacts as a way of interacting with the world means we lose more than simple skill sets. We lose a kind of epistemology, a way of seeing ourselves in connection with that which is outside.