Intelligent / by Karie Luidens

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I’ve always assumed that sweaty, dirty, laborious work was to be avoided, not just because it was difficult but because it was somehow inferior to white collar work. I realize how horribly classist that sounds, but why deny the idea I must have held subconsciously all these years? Manual labor was rote and repetitive. It had no glamour or prestige. Dirt was lowly—dirt cheap, dirt poor, dumb as dirt. Why stoop to that when the rhetoric of my education has been one of lofty ambitions, upward mobility, climbing ladders, ivory towers? That, supposedly, is the realm of the intelligentsia. 

Well, ten days of working on a farm have challenged my intellect more than any given two-week period in most of the office jobs I’ve held. Those jobs required verbal skills—emails in, emails out, phone calls taken and documents drafted in between. This job requires those skills as a baseline, plus the rest of my bodily senses, my constant precise attention to the elements, my deliberation, my dexterity, my strength, my tolerance for heat and heft, my endurance through long days of lifting, carrying, planting, and pulling. Farm work seems to exist at the intersection of every kind of mental and physical intelligence humans possess.