Experiential Capital and The Will to Work (September 8, 2009)
My Labor Day entry drew extremely insightful reader responses.
The word "capital" usually conjures up concepts of money and perhaps factories. But there are several types of capital. As noted in yesterday's entry, there are four separate types of capital:
1. natural capital (arable soil, oil, coal, fresh water, etc.)
2. built capital (tools, cranes, manufacturing equipment, electrical grids, etc.)
3. social capital (government, education, healthcare, Imperial bureaucracy, etc.)
4. experiential (internal) capital (skills, drive, ability to learn, health, etc.)
Without the fourth type of capital, then the other three erode to worthlessness. Some may argue that internal skills are not properly capital, but I would argue that "soft capital" is no less important just because it cannot be quantified like the number of mines, miles of roadways or students graduating.
In one sense, experiential (internal) capital is where the rubber meets the road. You can have natural capital, built capital ands social capital, but if nobody wants to produce value in the real world any more, or has the experience to do so, then the physical capital is unproductive and the citizenry will rapidly decline into abject poverty.
The costs of losing the willingness to learn and work in the physical (non-digital) world is the common thread in these reader comments.
Here in the country we're back to the season of canning tomatoes, freezing corn, drying beans and apples, which is the yearly round. And like TV, it's just a habit. We don't need it, necessarily, but it's so familiar that it's easy to us, and we can't let the knowledge die. I mean, what happens if THIS is the year we NEED it? And after 15 years of habit, this year we found someone who wants to learn canning, so the knowledge won't die, because it is. You can read it in a book, sure, but it's all these little habits, these workflows, these tricks. Without them, you'll ruin a bunch, work too hard, be too worried, and not eat it because to some extent your life is at stake. Or put better, you're putting your life back into your own hands and away from somebody else.
I am retired, and find that when I get off of my assssss, and do something I feel much better. I do play a lot on the computer. However, I find that when I physically.... reposition the fence in the back yard, when I dig a drainage ditch, when I repair drywall and paint I feel better. When all else falls I get on the treed mill. It will be snowing soon, and the ability move snow is a work out. Helping my neighbors move snow, cut trees etc is good. I have plenty of time to sit on my asss. There is a true joy in working, of doing something, for self and for others.
I could not agree more (with your entry Labor Day Musings: On Skills and Skil 77s). What is funny is that when I was a kid in the sixties if you did not have a vegetable garden/root cellar and canning expertise you were the exception. I guess people got lazy over the years when there was no longer any seasonality in the retail produce business (ie. you can buy tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, cherries year round now). Grapes used to be high status, only the well-to-do could afford them at any time of the year.
"...Guitar Hero over actually learning how to play a real guitar and watching rather than doing."
Thank you, correspondents, for your experiences and insights. As Emerson noted: Do the thing and you shall have the power.
Essays: V. Compensation (1841) (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
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