It’s beginning to feel like a crescendo of anticipation here, with the stuttering arrival of the various components required for a couple of jobs around the place. But first came the planning, putting the new systems together in my mind, plotting how the components would go together, studying and learning new tricks of assembly, revising and reconfiguring until it all made increasingly good sense. And now, after weeks of waiting, the parts are nearly all here. Enough to be beginning with the assembly, anyway.
Well, to be honest, a bit of dis-assembly first, to remove the parts of an unsatisfactory earlier job, then some simple repairs, and at last the first portions of the new build. Often, during these processes, I seem to lose myself, whether through concentration on the job at hand, or from simple mechanical follow-through activities of the sort I’ve done many times before. I just feel as if I’m a part of the process, steadily and happily working toward a realisable goal.
A famous psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, at the University of Chicago, invented a term for that feeling, which he called ‘Flow.’ Somewhere on the axis of skill level, as plotted against the axis of challenge, the task at hand can turn into Flow which as defined on his WikiPedia page, can be experienced by everyone “. . . [Flow] is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what they are doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.”
I’ve often thought that the Shakers, who we mentioned earlier this week, were in their exquisite craftsmanship seeking this sort of harmony between the challenge of the furniture job, and their developing skills. They considered that craft properly pursued can be a path to godliness, through a dedicated ascetic lifestyle of discipline which leads eventually to joy. Perhaps these end terms are really all the same sort of thing: flow; godliness; happiness even. But I don’t really think I’m on the path to godliness as I try to configure the solar panels on our aging motorhome, nor work to revive our dried-up hot tub so that we can enjoy a hot soak on some star-filled night soon. Flow, on the other hand, that I can appreciate as I carefully follow the steps I’ve thought through.
As the cares and worries of life drop away in the concentration on the task at hand, so the project develops steadily, and the next challenge awaits. Without challenge, boredom soon sets in, but too much challenge is frustrating beyond words. I often find that if I can chop the challenge into smaller parts, I can work through something new to a successful fruition. That result may, or may not elicit a great swell of happiness, but the process of getting that far is usually as close as I imagine I’ll ever get to such an exalted state.
Now, how do I identify which is the positive lead coming out of the solar panel, when both cables are identical? The terminal box on the panel is now hidden underneath the whole assembly on the roof! Or what’s the best way to put the solar panel MC4 connecters onto the cable? Youtube to the rescue on the connector connection, and a simple Google explanation of the positivity of DC voltage readings on the multimeter, and I’m back to the job again! And I’ve figured out just where to put those awkward circuit breakers, too! Meanwhile, the big 32mm alkathene pipe has arrived so we can quickly fill the hot tub to get it swelling again.
Soon I’ll be humming along to myself, quietly getting on with the job, lost in the Flow before I even realise it.