April 9, 2009

Intellectual and Manual Labor

Filed under: Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 8:54 pm

There is a stark contrast between working mentally and working physically.  Both can be strenuous and taxing.  Both are often used as sources of employment, allowing us to create a life for ourselves.  I’ve done both and must say that there is something much more rewarding about manual labor in the short term.  It is easy to look back after a days work cutting wood and point out that you cleared four evergreens and a birch.  There is a sense of accomplishment represented visually which cannot be refuted.

Intellectual work is normally a long term endeavor.  Projects take great amounts of time and often entire days and (heavens forbid) weeks of work that may well prove without merit in the grand scheme of things.  It happens.  Yet the fruits of such labor have an exponential potential for value whereas manual labor is likely not as such.  Manual labor stands on it’s own but refuses to jump.

Both offer their rewards.  Most importantly both complement each other.  A man of great intellect is seldom revered by the masses of laborers and a man of great ongoing labor is quickly forgotten amidst the masses of similar.  Yet the man that combines these things, that builds an intellect while maintaining a duty to physical work to avoid idle hands truly optimizes his gifts.  This holds true for men and women of all ages.  Exercising all muscles keeps you the most fit.  Unfortunately, society would normally not have it as such.  It’s more likely that you would be typecast as one or the other, blue or white.  It’s far easier to say there goes Othello the painter than, say, Titus the writer, artisan, philosopher, blacksmith and actor.  The same goes for intellect and manual laborers.  It’s difficult to think of humans bifurcating into such a duality, despite it being the truth of most instances.  And that, of course, is a damn shame.


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