Admission Essay

This is a tough one and will make or break you. You must do this work with love or you fail. – John Muir, “How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive”

My grandpa sang while he washed the dishes – Rock of Ages, Tiny Bubbles, School Days- and if you were in the kitchen he’d hand you a dishtowel and invite you to join in. And then one day the singing stopped. It wasn’t because Grandpa died; it was because my folks bought Grandma and Grandpa a dishwashing machine and had it installed.

My family meant well. Of course they did. Most people don’t spend several hundred dollars with the intention of making a beloved elderly relative less happy. But that’s what happened. And they weren’t the only ones to make the mistake of believing that mechanization equalled more happiness. A friend’s nana received a food processor one Christmas so she’d have an easier time making her famous cinnamon rolls and the plan might have worked if she’d ever been able to fully comprehend the instruction manual and to conquer her fear of the blades in the machine.

This problem has only increased with my generation AKA the Baby Boomers. We’re the ones who dreamed of and worked toward automating everything- a house that regulates its own temperature and vacuums itself, cars that drive and park themselves, weapons that will aim, recalculate, arm, and fire themselves. The goal of socks knitted by machine and pre-packaged food was to free up more time so we could pursue leisure activities and learning. What my generation has actually accomplished is distancing themselves from the people involved in and the pleasureable kinesthetic experiences derived from the creation of these products.

I’ve spent the last few years *reintroducing*(?) myself and especially the younger people around me to the joys of repersonalization and unautomation. Run your fingers through some yarn then wind it around them to see how the colors work together. Cast on for the top of the leg and follow a path blazed by millions of knitters over the years who created socks for their families that kept them warm with wool and love. Dig a hole in the ground and poke some seeds into it. Water them and watch and wait until the vines are tall enough and the fruit is red enough that you can pull off and eat… a tomato; something that tastes of dirt and sunshine instead of shrink-wrap and cardboard.

Returning to my grandpa, of course he sang while he washed the dishes. He was surrounded by people he loved who loved him back, warm soapy water feels good on your skin, and he was using his hands to do a good and useful and- yes- loving thing to make his home and I would say by extension the world a better place.

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