If you haven’t yet read Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford, definitely go out and buy yourself a copy. It’s a great meditation on how the modern age has nearly rendered obsolete humans’ ability to, essentially, work with our hands. Instead, it talks about how we seem to value pseudo-intellectual work, what Crawford describes as a kind of vague office existence. Crawford’s books examine what it means to develop within oneself an individual agency, the ability to act on behalf of one’s own interests, and he offers the activity of creating things and fixing things as one way to return to our roots.

So how does this relate to our health, you ask? Well, I think Crawford’s thesis can apply to the way we think of our own bodies. For example, one situation Crawford repeatedly analyzes is the experience of taking a modern car to be serviced. Instead of a mechanic explaining to you how the car could be fixed, a customer service representative in khaki pants and a button down shirt tells you how much it will cost. You don’t even have the tools or knowledge to check the car yourself to verify this diagnosis. His argument is that this distance between the user and the vehicle creates an unhealthy relationship. In short, we seem to care less about the vehicle, and that hurts us in the long run.

All one has to do in this example is replace ‘vehicle’ with ‘human body.’ The ‘mechanic’ is the ‘doctor’ and the ‘customer service representative’ is a ‘health insurance agent’ and/or ‘politician.’ Hopefully, you can see the connection I’m trying to make here. Think now of how we make use of the health services industry. When we get sick, we go see a doctor. But we have to navigate a confusing morass of health insurance policies in order to get the right examination. More policies dictate our treatment. And even more policies regulate our recovery. Sure, it’s still possible to get an honest conversation with a doctor about our health, but the layers we have to get through are seemingly endless.

Essentially, Crawford argues that the solution to this problem is to begin trying to learn things on our own and to care for ourselves. He recommends that we plant a garden, try simple maintenance around the house, or take up a craft, like carving or painting. Developing a hobby, like fishing, is another example. If we extend this idea to our own health, it means that we should daily examine ourselves. We should be better about understanding how our own bodies function. We should get to know their idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, we should know how to fix them. This means taking a First Aid course, understanding CPR, learning how the pharmaceuticals we take interact with foods, drinks, and other drugs. Finally, we must make sure to understand as much as possible both the way the health care industry works, as well as how it is regulated by insurance agencies and the government.

I understand that this advice seems a bit like common sense to many, but I am constantly surprised at how often I read stories about men and women who seem unprepared to deal with their bodies and their health.

I enthusiastically recommend Matthew Crawford’s book. It is a book that can help you realign your priorities in life and health.

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alisagilbert599@gmail.com.

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