Work With Your Hands


It's that simple, I promise. Devote focus to a tactile task. Give yourself up to repetitive motion; curate muscle memory. Be one with the movements of creative work. Embody fluidity. Welcome tunnel vision. Allow focus to blossom into direction. Upholster your periphery with the fuzzy mosaic of things that are not as important as what you're doing, in this moment, right now. Be aware, but be purposeful. Seek immersion. Melt into the larger effort. Be absorbed by it. Be absorbed, and absorb. Sense the outside world flowing through you, not past you. Don't move through space, rub through it. Abrasion is the blessed intersection of affection, effection (both made-up and apropos), and reception. Push and pull gives way to ebb and flow. Time gives way to cadence; rhythm is visceral.

You are a human being and this is how you consume experiences.

Touch. Feel. Pressing, and bending, and picking, and tearing. Breaking and sticking and sliding and twisting. It's the way we learn; it's the way we commune. The digital world has not replaced this primal need. The digital world cannot substitute this cornerstone of the human experience. Don't expect it to, don't ask it to.

Slow down.

Speed is ugly. A corner cut is two more born (geometry shows usthat). Slow is elegant. Methodical is suave. Tactual is real. If someone wants you to skip steps, pay them no heed. They know not what they do, and they certainly know nothing of what you do. Beauty lives in the folds between undulations. To flatten out the creative experience is to mini-mall your lobes. The experience is the reason to do it in the first place, don't ever lose sight of that.

So why have we forgotten what it means to be human?

Maybe we're a generation of conceptualizers and theorizers. Perhaps the overwhelming speed of our days has eradicated any ability to savor the thoughtful and methodical pieces of our individual constitution. Maybe desks and mice have eclipsed workbenches and lathes. Maybe Willy Loman looms in all of us, a slumped-tall shadow looking over our shoulders, urging us to go faster and create less friction.

What does this really mean?

When you feel out of touch with the world around you it's most likely because you are literally out of touch with the world around you. If you are not grounded in the physical, tactile world, then you are simply not tethered to humanity. Use paper. Cut things. Draw. Build. Legos are your friends. The more you touch and feel your way through a mental exercise, the more exercise you receive. Adults are just stretched out babies, and babies thrive off the physical world. They learn from it. They feed off it. They are innately coupled with their environment.

So no, don't crawl around on all fours at the office. And no, please don't don a diaper for your next client meeting (unless that's your modus operandi). But yes, please—pretty please with a cherry on top—incorporate physical objects in your work. Harness your hands. Kickstart your primal soul. When you do, the whole world is your ocean, ebbing and flowing and rocking and carrying you to a place where you feel human and alive, and both at the same time.

Jonathan Kerrs is a product development consultant based in New York City. Aside from his penchant for internal process improvement and habitual optimism, he’s actually a pretty normal guy. Tell him how great he is.