Monday, August 23, 2010

The Fog And Mist Of Industrialism

There's something very satisfying about industrialism.

Of course there's all the rugged aspects of it, the sharp edges of metal trim, the blunt ends of things, and how dirty everything gets. It's like playing in a sandbox all day as far as dirt goes. As for the other stuff, there's extreme cold -- the feel of metal -- and extreme hot, if you happen to get close to the sparks of a welder.

I like how everything seems to run together. You're working at it, like making tires, and your mind just drifts off in the work, and it's hard to keep things distinct. It's like you're working by instinct, not by conscious decisions. One tire looks very much like another. There's no distinguishing marks. It's a very hypnotic job. When I do it, I have this constant disoriented feeling that's always interesting.

A couple weeks ago I was writing about the parallels between industrialism and spirituality, or, if not parallels, at least the spiritual connections that industrialism presents. I know that guys who do a lot of welding or brazing say they can really see the inner light. They're busy hitting that single, bright point. It's such a complete focus, to see that bright light even through their visors. Then in the day -- any kind of recall of their meditations, such as if they catch a glimpse of the sun, it puts them prostrate on the ground.

Being an industrialist is a deeply comforting thing. You can count on it. There's always one more thing coming down the line. The repetition, like I said above about the tires, makes for a numbing sensation, so you can think deeply about other things to the point of being consciously lost. It's like being lost in the fog or the mist. If you haven't got your own factory yet, you should check into working with a neighbor.

It's those times when I'm lost in the work of manufacturing that I'm the happiest. For those shifts, I can forget the terrible competition that rages between the major industrial powers and the members of the Residential Industrial Movement (RIM). Those issues become a blur. And, when I'm really mellow, I see them as complementary in certain ways, like they're part of a cyclical interplay, like the yin and the yang, which is perhaps the sexiest symbol this side of the Playboy rabbit.

There's comfort, I said that. But there's also what your body physically goes through. Your muscles ache and creak. There's titanic forces at work in your body as you wield tools, tend to parts, and avoid the danger of swinging panels that could hit you with a ton of force. But, again, if you let your instincts take over, you'll be just fine. You're usually safe if you're not thinking about it too diligently. I've known guys -- and this is true in driving as well -- as soon as they become aware of the great danger they're in, something pops up and whacks them.

But what a blithe existence when you just let it happen and submit to the fog and mist. To hear -- to deeply hear -- the clanking, the whirring, and to feel the tactile sensations of the cables dropped down and the parts dangling in front of you, it's almost indescribable. I could grab on to them like the girl in the circus -- and if I had good teeth, I might be up there spinning from the ceiling. But my teeth aren't that great, even though the dentist assures me I'm never going to need full dentures if I keep coming in for regular checkups and get a few cavities taken care of.

In industrialism, the romance continues. Even small things are fascinating and beautiful. As to my lunchbox, to mention a very small thing, it's got several days' worth of dirt on the handle, and that's a good thing. I might never clean it, since all the germs are mine.

A lunchbox is just setting there, though, so that's what I'm stroking while taking a break. Then it's back to the job. The line lurches back into action. How lovely. Then, depending on what I'm working with, I might pull down a big power tool. How great it is, to get the thing going. I love the zero to 90 mph speed of the power tools! You're screwing and cinching with the full force of a mighty tool and getting it done barely before you've started. Those puppies can get it done! They hit home with a quick full twist!

At the end of a workday -- with the fog and mist swirling in my tired mind -- I go out and look up at the dying embers of another day's sun. Some enormous force kicks dirt on it and again it's night.

I may walk into the fog and mist and never come back. Why should I? Why would anyone want to?

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