Resonant Thoughts: Richard Sennett’s “The Craftsman” (2008)

“Going over an action again and again, by contrast, enables self-criticism. Modern education fears repetitive learning as mind-numbing. Afraid of boring children, avid to present ever-different stimulation, the enlightened teacher may avoid routine-but thus deprives children of the experience of studying their own ingrained practice and modulating it from within.”

“The difficult and the incomplete should be positive events in our understanding; they should stimulate us as simulation and facile manipulation of complete objects cannot.”

“But the craftsman’s slow working through forges the logic and maintains the form. Many propositions that seem counterintuitive are not so; we just don’t know their connections yet. Plodding craft labor is a means to discover it.”

“The skill of physical concentration follows rules of its own, based on how people learn to practice, to repeat what they do, and to learn from repetition. Concentration, that is, has an inner logic; this logic can, I believe, be applied to working steadily for an hour as well as for several years.”

“We might think, as did Adam Smith describing industrial labor, of routine as mindless, that a person doing something over and over goes missing mentally; we might equate routine and boredom. For people who develop sophisticated hand skills, it’s nothing like this. Doing something over and over is stimulating when organized as looking ahead.”

“The substance of the routine may change, metamorphose, improve, but the emotional payoff is one’s experience of doing it again. There’s nothing strange about this experience. We all know it; it is rhythm. Built into the contractions of the human heart, the skilled craftsman has extended rhythm to the hand and the eye.”

“Craftwork embodies a great paradox in that a highly refined, complicated activity emerges from simple mental acts like specifying facts and then questioning them.”

“We develop skill at the live edge.”

Richard Sennett, The Craftsman

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