From his Early Autumn, a Spenser novel:
Paul shifted his grip a little on the shovel and took another stab at the dirt. He got most of it this time. “Don’t they have machines to do this?”
“Yes.” I swung the mattock again. It bit into the soil pleasingly. We were getting down a layer, where the roots and rocks weren’t a problem. “But there’s no satisfaction in it. Get a gasoline post-hole digger and rattle away at this like a guy making radiators. Gas, fumes, noise. No sense that you’re doing it.”
“I should think it would be easier.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I said…. “We’ll use some power tools later on. Circular saws, that sort of stuff. But I wanted to start with our backs.”
Paul looked at me as if I were strange and made a silent gesture with his mouth.
“It’s not crazy,” I said. “We’re not doing this just to get it done…. We do it to get the pleasure of making something. Otherwise we could hire someone. That would be the easiest way of all.”
“But this is cheaper,” Paul said.
“Yeah, we save money. But that’s just a point that keeps it from being a hobby, like making ships in a bottle. Only when love and need are one, you know?”
“What’s that mean?” he said.
“It’s a poem, I’ll let you read it after supper.”
I read Early Autumn at a pivotal time in my life. It’s a short novel with more than its share of moral teachings.
Phil’s been asking about books that shaped our political values. For me, it comes down to a moral core. Bernard Bailyn (more about him later) helped to orient my political compass: if the Founders actually believed what they said in their political pamphlets, then damn it, I can too! But Heinlein and Robert Parker helped to solidify my moral core, so those political beliefsÂ became groundedÂ on more than just statements of faith — they rest on a rational structure springing from core moral precepts.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” I’ve found it’s a hell of a lot more fun to go through life knowing who you are and what it means to be you.