Creation is Irrational.
Why are the artists crazy? Any why aren't the engineers much better?
I've been watching a lot of Van Neistat lately. And coming to the realization that he's a huge reason why I got hooked on shop life - when I saw the film Ten Bullets, I was entranced. Here is a man speaking in an entrancing way about a code used to make something. Here is a man talking about tools and productivity. But he isn't just talking about tools and productivity. He's talking about morality. But he isn't just talking about morality. He's talking about the good life. He's talking about relationship.
As I sit here writing and reassessing my position in this cosmos, I'm understanding a dimension of my work and the way that I approach engineering which has always been present, but has been muted. Hushed. Neutered. The artisanal spirit.
For the past three years and change, I've been formally employed as a "mechanical design engineer". Those are some fancy words. They capture decently what I do. I design things. Those things are usually mechanical. And I run some calculations to support the designs and ensure they won't fail. All well and good. Yet - there's definitely more to it than that conscious level. There's something a layer down. A something which has always led to some conflict in team environments, or at least some pent-up repression.
Good engineers (of which, people say I am one) are artists. We have instincts.
We look at things and say, "that's going to break." We don't even know why at first. The ratios are wrong. Sometimes we're wrong, but often we're right. A 2-inch diameter, 10 foot long shaft is going to twist. No way around that. Best be taking a second look at that.
The analytical mind cannot create. It cannot conceive. The analytical mind can only destroy.
[A]nalytical understanding must always be a basilisk which kills what it sees and only sees by killing.
- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, Chapter 3
Engineers, the ones who build, are not rationalists. We don't reason our way into a design. We only reason our way out. What do we do instead?
Proposal. Posit a schematic. Posit some components. Posit the length of the shaft. The size of the keyway. The dowel pin size. The material. The length. We propose on a second-by-second basis. If we slow down to analyze everything, the project grinds to a halt. So we propose.
Submission. Here is where analytics help - by destroying other options. You want a m6 pin to have a slip fit in the hole, but don't know what size to make the hole. Analysis says nothing but an H7 hole will do. Guess we're stuck with H7.
Guess that's what I'm doing now. I propose, and I submit. I send a quote, I do the work. I give an idea, I play it out.
And then we check. Type-A-System-1-Rational brain comes in after that and says it's dumb. Or it's great. But rational brain can't come up with that. So we can't let him take too much control.
Be a little irrational. It's the only way to create.