What prompts this post is that I live where the new sidewalk ends. Here in the Northeast, concrete sidewalks do not last forever, and the State of Connecticut is replacing the sidewalk in front of my home today, at least up to the point where another section was replaced a few years ago by the City of New Haven. As a typical American sidewalk superintendent, I took a break to watch the men as they worked. These guys work for a local contractor, and they are good at what they do. They’re craftsmen, too: they make things; they pay attention to details; and they take pride in the quality of their work.
Books and sidewalks are very different things. And maybe the level of education of people who make books is, on average, different from that of people who make sidewalks. But I often feel a greater sense of camaraderie with sidewalk makers than I do with, say, the average person walking down a sidewalk or driving down the street, to whom a sidewalk—or a book, for that matter—is beneath contemplation as a made object, to whom such objects merely exist as facts with prices but do not represent the labor or skill that went into making them facts in the first place.
To me, life is richer for the appreciation of the craft of others, be they the people who make sidewalks or the people who grow food or the people who build cars or the people who turn my PDF files into printed and bound books. I find myself disappointed that so many people can’t or won’t take a moment to consider the makers of things. I find myself pitying those people, too, sometimes.
The world is a richer place for its artists, whose vision and imagination help shape culture. But the world also needs craftspeople—lots of them—to turn vision into practical reality.