Cover photo

Building

I sit in the kitchen. The scent of coffee lingers in the air.

Sofiane Pamart plays in the background from a speaker.

Outside, in front of the window: a construction site.

Raindrops are racing down the window glass, driven on by the wind.

"I should clean the window," - I think to myself.

I remember the postcard I have yet to send off, featuring Caspar David Friedrich's painting of a woman looking out of the window. There's something about that - anticipation or longing to be taken away on the sailing boat passing by.

Caspar David Friedrich's Woman at a Window

I make a mental note to drop it in the postbox.

As I get up to pour some coffee, I catch a glimpse of the construction workers.

It's a miracle how they even got so far, from tearing up the entire street, putting in new cables, and now closing it again. It has been months, and still, it's impressive.

A maximum of 5 people work simultaneously, one driving an excavator, the other moving along with a shovel, and a third standing next to it - seemingly making smart comments.

Maybe he is the equivalent of the middle manager of this site. Delegating, overseeing, and looking important. At times, you can see him holding up big sheets of paper. The other two just fixing up bits and pieces.

Today, they've marked a 40 sqm piece of the open ground using a yellow string, presumably to be paved with cobblestone.

Objectively, it doesn't seem so desirable to be standing out there in the rain and mud, shoveling along.

And yet, I find myself feeling a little envy.

Me, the person sitting cozy in her leopard onesie, in a home office well-heated, with an endless supply of affordable hot beverages, and no pressure to be dressed appropriately nor make watercooler small talk.

When people ask me what I do for work, I tend to say: "I write, and I know things." Even though about the latter, I'm less and less confident the more I learn.

Once you start explaining blockchain, crypto, and whatnot, it's hard to pinpoint real-life examples that the non-crypto-savvy person opposite would be familiar with.

99% of the things we do are 0s and 1s. Pushing bits and bytes.

It's not to say we couldn't build meaningful communities, but it's abstract - you must admit.

Maybe this is why I am feeling this way about the construction workers.

As the bullshit job thesis suggests, if you can't describe your job in less than three words, it's a bullshit job.

I write stuff - that is three words.

They build infrastructure. Three words.

At least there's that.

Still, while they are shaking the ground with their heavy machinery, I'm just typing along on my laptop.

Click clack.

No impact anywhere except in my fingertips.

The only sign at the end of the day that I've done something is that my eyes hurt after looking at a screen for too long.

Online, there might be a new blog post, some new followers on a Social Media account I manage, or people who have learned something from me.

Sometimes, people reach out to me, telling me that they feel the same way I do. They think I get a certain thing about the world - a piece that is often forgotten in this industry of decentralized networks and avant-garde tech: the human element.

Those are the most rewarding moments. Or when someone tells me that one of the spaces I hosted led to new insights, inspired them, or made them connect with someone interesting.

I try to think back to those whenever I'm longingly looking at construction workers, teachers, musicians, librarians, and all those I consider to be working more grounded in reality.

As Hegel recognized, labor plays an important role.

“Labor is not merely the thing we do to secure economic subsistence, as the classical Liberal would have you believe. Rather, labor is central to the development of self-consciousness, and by extension, freedom"

But not all labor is manual. It's just that the results of manual labor are easier to see.

Philosophers have argued for centuries that thinking is work, too.

Maybe even more onerous than back in the day when there wasn't as much shallow distraction to fill the void.

In a time when inactivity is seen as negative - even though it's well-established that rest is just as necessary for great ideas to thrive as it is for bread dough to rise.

"He remembered how Calvin often stared off into space. 'It’s how I focus,' he’d explained to Six-Thirty.

But others had complained about the staring too, grousing that on any given day at any given hour, one could find Calvin Evans sitting in a big fancy lab surrounded by the very best equipment, music blaring, doing absolutely nothing. Worse, he was getting paid to do absolutely nothing. Even worse, he won a lot of awards this way."

- from Lessons in Chemistry (Bonnie Garmus)

Considering how much I look out of the window, seemingly spacing out - maybe it's good I am not a construction worker doing manual labor.

And anyway, it'd probably break my back. There's a reason it's all strong guys.

Maybe I, too, am building something.

It's just not as tangible. Yet.

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#contemplation#philosophy
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