Tinkering in America

Observing the unique American life in his book, On Paradise Drive, author David Brooks says, “In America we have space-saving pop-up disk racks, prewaxed home dusters, turkey-and bacon-flavored dog biscuits, and self-propelled vacuums…built-in compass cuff links, and antibacterial toothbrush purifiers.  Behind each of these ingenious and highly unnecessary items there is some inventor, some tinkerer, some junior Thomas Edison dreaming of his patent-protected millions and his contribution to humanity.”

Brooks was echoing what Italian journalist, Luigi Barzini (1908-1984) said in the middle part of the last century.  Barzina said that upon arriving in the United States that he was struck with “our compulsion to tirelessly tinker, improve everything and everybody, never leave anything alone.”

Our nation has long been a collection of dreamers and tinkerers, optimists, and tireless workers.  Compared to our European counterparts, we work longer hours, get less vacation, and even when we are on vacation we are constantly monitoring our emails and responding to those important queries.  We just can’t leave work behind.  And regardless of pleas to work less and relax more…we’re not changing.  We are who we are; we are a nation that believes we can fix it – whatever it is.

We will fix the car, the bike, the company, the economy…it’s in our eclectic, mongrel DNA…but we should be careful that we don’t scrub this tinkering DNA out of our future generations.  Parents need to allow children to struggle, tinker, and find their own solutions.  And just as a child’s discovery of their God-given talents can be thwarted by well-meaning parents who don’t allow them to struggle, easy government handout programs for every malady or misfortune can also be an impediment to discovery.

So in the spirit of Luigi Barzina, tinker in your garage, tinker with your craft, tinker with some writing, tinker with other volunteers to find solutions, tinker with that new business idea, tinker and be satisfied that in the end, you may not find a solution but what you may find is your thought process is expanding…and then…who knows you may find some real “luck” and tinker yourself into some good old fashion, well-earned success.