The Fun (and Necessity) of Physical Things

the fun of physical things

Would you rather play or watch?

Over three decades ago, I worked as a day baker for a retired professional athlete in my hometown, Lake Orion MI. This man was an interesting character. After playing Major League Baseball, he went into the food business but kept his hand in baseball. He did fantasy camps, consulted young athletes and their coaches, did color commentary on broadcast baseball games, signed autographs at card shows, etc. However, he let me know more than once that he’d rather play than watch baseball any day. (Detroit Tiger pitcher Mickey Lolich was my boss, for those interested.)

We are physical creatures. We have five senses, all clamoring for stimulation. The essence of feeling more alive, not less, is to be fully, bodily involved in life, whenever possible. An actual, rather than a virtual, existence.

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax is easily the most interesting read I’ve come across in the past few years. This is not simply a book about the resurrection of the vinyl LP market. It includes that, but also has chapters on board games (Settlers of Catan), film photography (FILM Ferrania), longhand writing and sketching (Moleskine) and much more.

Sax is a journalist in Toronto, ON. The opening of a new vinyl record shop near his apartment renewed his lost love for 33⅓ hot wax. He bought a turntable and began bringing home records. Inspired by his experience with turntable and record albums, he ventured out into the world to places like Nashville, London, Milan and New York to understand why people—many of them born after turntables, rotary phones and typewriters were ubiquitous and who’ve been raised in the speed-of-light, digital world—are turning back to simpler, more archaic forms of hobby and interest. What he found was stunning.

Physical things like record albums, pencils, chess boards, film and brick-and-mortar bookstores are not dying; they are attracting interest and market capital. Oh, and making money. Sax uses analog as a metaphor for things that involve physical, face-to-face interaction, with as many senses involved as the experience will allow. An analog approach and technology is about the experience of the participant.

There are many benefits to analog technology but here’s just one: It slows you down as you use it. Analog things cause you to be in the moment due to their slower and ungainly nature. They don’t depend on fiber-optics and binary number combinations. 1’s and 0’s have their limits.

What are some of your favorite analog things? Records, real print books, Monopoly, hand woodworking tools? And how can adopting or revisiting analog technologies and practices give you a richer life in addition to your digital, online world?

Tell us in the comments!

 

Suggested Resources:

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day (Michael Gelb)

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Lessons from a Master Carpenter (Norm Abram)

 

Image Credit: Christian Fahey

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Providing A Superior Experience

I once read something from renowned editor and author Sol Stein (Stein On Writing).  He wrote that the correct intention for a writer was “to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in everyday life.”  I was really struck by that because, like many others who write and enjoy it, I do so “because I have something to say” or “need to get something off my chest” or “have a passion for this or that.”  Stein’s point is that the focus of our writing is to enhance the experience of the reader.  It’s not about me or any other writer.

I thought about this important reality.  What one does in writing one can do in daily life.  As a disciple of Jesus, I value Him, my relationship with Him and the experience of His presence.  When He is near me—especially that transcendent, “something more” sense–nothing else can even come close.

So I had to ask myself, “How do people experience my presence in their lives?”  Being honest, I’d have to admit that at times my involvement in the lives of the people I live and work with have energized them.  And at other times, frankly, I’ve drained them.  Usually the drain part comes when it’s all about me.  And the energizing quality comes when I forget about me and seek to “provide (name) with an experience that is superior to the experience (name) encounters in everyday life.”

Be honest.  How do people experience you?

The world has spent the past year reflecting upon the life of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers.  When Steve passed away, I happened to be reading Leander Kahney’s excellent book Inside Steve’s Brain.  The one thing that emerged very quickly from my reading was that the experience of the user was one of the absolute core values of Steve Jobs and Apple.  Still is.  Millions of dollars and countless thousands of work hours were and are spent to provide Apple customers with a superior experience in their interaction with modern technology.  Jobs examined every aspect of the experience of an Apple customer and, with his outstanding team, honed it endlessly to ensure that the complex was simplified and that the experience of the buyer—even down to the opening and assembly of a new computer—was superior to anything else out there.  Jobs’ solution to the problem of pirating of music (through illegal downloading) was to provide such a superior experience for one visiting the iTunes Store, that one would be willing to pay for the tunes and files they wanted, rather than pirate them.  A superior experience as a curative for a moral and economic problem.  Brilliant.

Challenge for the day: Ask yourself how people experience your presence in daily life.  Be honest and willing to make adjustments, shifts in thinking, learn new stuff, whatever.  You may be surprised how people jump out of the woodwork when they see how their lives are enhanced just by being with you—a superior experience.

Image Credit

The Value Of A Superior Experience

A few weeks ago, my friend Christopher Hopper graciously gave me the opportunity to appear as a guest blogger on his fascinating and delightful website,http://www.christopherhopper.com/   Check it out!  This is the post I wrote:

___________________

Some time ago, I read something from renowned editer and author Sol Stein (Stein On Writing for those interested).  He wrote that the correct intention for a writer was “to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in everyday life.”  I was really struck by that because, like many others who write and enjoy it, I do so “because I have something to say” or “need to get something off my chest” or “have a passion for this or that.”  Stein’s point is that the focus of our writing is to enhance and ennoble the life of the reader.  It’s not about me.

I began extrapolating this important reality.  What one does in writing one can do in daily life.  As a disciple of Jesus, I value Him, my relationship with Him and the experience of His presence.  When He is near me (especially in that exciting, “palpable” sense) nothing else can compare.

So I had to ask myself, “How do people experience my presence in their lives?”  Being honest I’d have to admit that at times my involvements in the lives of the people I live and work with have energized them.  And at other times, candidly, I’ve drained them.  Usually the drain part comes when it’s all about me.  And the energizing quality comes when I forget me and seek to “provide (name) with an experience that is superior to the experience (name) encounters in everyday life.”

Be honest.  How do people experience you?

The world has spent the past few weeks reflecting upon the life of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers.  When Steve passed away, I happened to be reading Leander Kahney’s excellent book Inside Steve’s Brain.  The one thing that emerged very quickly from my reading was that the experience of the user was one of the absolute core values of Steve Jobs and Apple.  Still is.  Millions of dollars and countless thousands of work hours were and are spent to provide Apple customers with a superior experience in their interaction with modern technology.  Jobs examined every aspect of the experience of an Apple customer and, with his outstanding team, honed it endlessly to ensure that the complex was simplified and that the experience of the buyer—even down to the opening and assembly of a new computer—was superior to anything else out there.  Jobs’ solution to the problem of pirating of music (through illegal downloading) was to provide such a superior experience for one visiting the iTunes Store, that one would be willing to pay for the tunes and files they wanted, rather than pirate them.  A superior experience as a curative for a moral and economic problem.  Brilliant.

Challenge for the day: Ask yourself how people experience your presence in daily life.  Be honest and willing to make adjustments, shifts in thinking, learn new stuff, whatever.  You may be surprised how people jump out of the woodwork when they see how their lives are enhanced just by being with you—a superior experience.