June 14, 2005
I am currently engaged in a wholly engrossing activity of truly nerdish/geeky proportions; I have become a chronic embroiderer. My favorite activity most nights is to come home and watch Simpsons episodes while I do needlework. I am keenly aware that this is the most appallingly boring activity most hip young thirty-somethings could ever imagine. But there are several compelling reasons why I feel the need to sew.
[BTW, did you know that the word "suzan" in Farsi means "needle"? See?!]
- One, because it keeps me from being an irredeemable couch potato. As long as I am Productive, I don't feel like my evenings in front of the TV are a complete waste.
- Two, because it keeps me from eating from boredom - it is impossible to eat and sew simultaneously.
- Three, because it impresses the hell out of almost everyone. A well-executed sampler or project as a gift will pretty much make every other gift look tawdry, cheap, and ill-considered. "See? I love you more than everyone else!"
- Four, because it is beautiful.
- Five, because it is real.
Four and Five deserve some elaboration... some "embroidery," if you will. All day long at my IT job I manipulate bits of nothingness - I produce NOTHING except documents that more often than not never even get printed - ghosts of words that are read by someone in an email and then deleted, never to be made tangible. Needlework is the one inescapably real thing I do outside the office that actually displays talent and skill beyond my ability to hook up a user laptop on a DSL wireless network and connect via VPN to the office network, or add a show venue address to an enormous database.
It used to be that most of the things produced with needle and thread were useful in some way - you made clothing or upholstery or bed linens yourself. But now there's no need - it can be done more cheaply and quickly by machines in factories, or by women at home on sewing machines. Almost the only hand-sewing done now is for art's sake - quilts, cross-stitch, needlepoint. And when you use real linen, and cotton or sometimes silk thread, there is a tangible, beautiful product completed after many hours. It takes focus and it takes patience. Except for little projects, most needlework projects take weeks or months.
It's sometimes my only grasp on what is real, what matters, what is meaningful - with a TiVo, iPod, and Blackberry, I can literally spend HOURS on intangibles that have little value or benefit (unless it be to inspire or educate... but for me, usually it's just for entertainment). I come home after herding invisible bits and bytes around an unseen network all day, and I pick up a piece of fine linen with threads of scarlet and purple, and I am making something far more enduring than the report on client earnings I generated that morning, or the software installed that afternoon.
And of course, like I said - it impresses the hell out of everyone.