I could never quite articulate the immense comfort I’d experience as a kid, from watching my father – a mechanic by trade (but more a visual artist at heart), fix things. His intent gaze, throbbing vein on his temple and spectacles perched purposefully on the crook of his nose – all summonsed to provide meticulous attention to detail as he sought to repair an appliance for our home or assemble a carburettor for a waiting family anxious to hit the road , filled me with an inexplicable sense of security.
Later this feeling would extend towards my brother as I witnessed , with begrudging admiration, his mechanical exploits in assisting with similar needed tasks at home…
And then in more recent years, the feeling evolved into intense allure when observing a lover straining every sinew at a DIY task or a repair job (Not to diminish at all the potential titillation of high-brow conversation for me…🙂 It was more the selfless immersion in an act for… the collective good ?? An extreme extrapolation I’ll admit…But with hindsight I reflect now that I perceived this focus to be different (and hence significant) from say that of the focused attention applied when pursuing a higher art form like for e.g. playing an instrument or writing, of which the benefit may, by and large, be purely for an individualistic pursuit…
Here it was a response to a call to action for an altruistic purpose that I found to be so potently stirring…and captured so powerfully and eloquently in this passage from John Bergers book’ From A to X – A story in letters ‘… as the narrator Aida recounts a memory of her imprisoned lover. The juxtaposition of the impending military operation encroaching on them and her lovers mechanical prowess ( he is later imprisoned as an insurgent) is captured in such a searingly beautiful manner:
‘… In your left hand an electric screw driver, small as a wren with several beaks. Occasionally you tapped with it. I could see – for it was visible in your shoulders – that you were not only following wires, you were tracing the thinking process by which men had conceived and then constructed that machine.
In the main streets shots were being fired.
Let’s try this, you whispered. And I suddenly took in that with man-made machines there are circuits of ingenuity which can be shared between minds. Like poetry is shared. I saw this in the back of your hands.
No words have ever been reassuring to me as your hands were at that moment. We could hear their orders being shouted through a loud hailer in the main street. You looked up, directly at me, you nodded. And then winked with one of your sore eyes. ‘