There is a famous story about Philip Glass installing a dishwasher for Robert Hughes who was then Time magazine’s art critic, among other things. Upon realizing who was his installer, Hughes exclaimed: “But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?” Glass replied that he was installing his dishwasher and he would soon be finished.
I have been thinking of that story and more after recently reading these two pieces:
- MIT scans brain of hyperpolyglot Vaughn Smith who speaks 24 languages
- After 30 years at the CBC Bill Richardson is stocking shelves at Whole Foods
In all three cases there is an implicit bias against being working class. All three men are doing jobs of physical labour. In each case, the implication is that they could be doing something else, something better. The conclusion is that they have a talent and that their time could be better spent elsewhere applying it.
I agree that if you have a talent, it is good to use it. But you may be tired of using your talent. Or your talent doesn’t pay the bills. Or you don’t value your talent. In any case, it’s up to you what you do with it. Like money, talent is yours to use as you will.
Perhaps though you get more satisfaction out of performing manual labour than performing your other ability. If so, then that can be the best use of your time. You help people and you help yourself with your physical efforts. There is nothing wrong with that, whatever society thinks.
Glass and Richardson make a defense for what they do. To me, no defense is needed. Glass did installations and applied his artistic talent. Richardson is done with his talent and now gets satisfaction out of working in Whole Foods. They were living their lives in the best way they knew how. We all should be so fortunate.