Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. Toothpick -- Too Much Time?

Unfortunately, I was not able to embed this Yahoo-ABC-Dunkin Donuts-sponsored news clip, but the smug "newscasters" here made three separate references to the gentleman who just built an entire stagecoach using 1.5 million toothpicks having "too much time on his hands."

The clip opens with such a reference, it closes with speculation about whether he's retired, and then more commentary about too much time, with a couple of "hedged bets" thrown in for good measure (It's impressive, but...)

If you actually look up the dictionary definition of the word "arrogance," you'll see it's not just an overweening pride in yourself, but also a haughty disdain for others. Don't make the mistake of confusing arrogance with confidence -- they're totally different.

That said, I think presumptions about what other people do with their time are often arrogant. I just had two great discussions about this topic -- one over e-mail with a friend who spends five hours a day writing (but nineteen other hours 'working' as any thought or dream could be inspiration) and another with Kad Barma, who was talking about the perils of working from home in terms of others' perceptions about when you're *actually* working. The topic hits home for me right now because the vicissitudes of the scheduling gods have worked in some pockets of relative *professional downtime* for me this year, which sometimes leads me into cumbersome explanations about how my jam-packed all-day schedule probably doesn't meet most sane people's definitions of *doing nothing.* For people whose only concept of productive work means either sitting at a desk in a suit and tie, or accumulation of sweat on the brow, and whose only definition of *not working* means sitting on the couch, eating potato chips and watching the "You are NOT the father!" TV marathon, this can sometimes be VERY hard to explain.

But I digress. Back to my original point -- let's give Mr. Toothpick his due respect. For all any of us know, the guy may be a vascular surgeon who relieves his work-related stress by spending two hours every night with his sculptures. Maybe he's a widower, an empty-nester, or maybe both. Let's agree to agree that none of us really knows.

The point is, lots of people do all sorts of things with their time. If someone spent two hours a night watching the Antonio Sabato reality show, they'd eventually have nothing to show for it; ironically, though, they'd probably never get tagged with the dismissive, verbal hand-wave known as 'too much time.' Mr. Toothpick, however, will be able to say that he created something that "belongs in a museum," with a nod to Mr. Indiana Jones.

Call me batty, but that sounds better than a heckuva lot of other ways I can imagine people might spend their time.


Jon and Kate said...

If you want to read an amazing -- yet very dense -- book about a lot of these issues, check out Lewis Hyde's THE GIFT.

He decries how our society is utterly incapable of value-ing anything that it can't put a price tag on. Because the more you've posted about the "too much time" blurk, I've realized you can replace "too much time" with "why would this person spend so much time doing something where they had nothing to gain financially?" It works for the toothpick stagecoach, it works for the YouTube stunt guys...

The point is these guys are artists -- they don't give a shit about making money, they're just trying to add a bit of joy and creativity to a fairly bleak world.

The New Englander said...

Thanks for adding that. One of the strangest aspects to that, I believe, is that people will openly question the value of others' artistic endeavors b/c there's no lucre involved, yet in the next breath talk about how open-minded and non-judgemental they are. Yeah, right..and I have a bridge to sell you in the Keys..

Will keep an eye out for the Lewis Hyde title..thanks much.

Shannon said...

My goodness, even in the simplest form of appreciation, one could say that at least he is doing something creative and using his brain , as opposed to some of the other options of idle time: drugs, alcohol abuse, porn or whatever else people do with their time to create problems for the world.

The New Englander said...

Exactly! There are just so many ways people idle their time socially destructive ways (as you mentioned) or even just in socially neutral ways (playing solitaire, playing Farmville or Cafe World on Facebook..) What this guy did was at least positive. So much for news anchors being unbiased and non-judgemental!